On this past Divine Mercy Sunday, I imagined the blood and water flowing out of Christ’s side and over me like a waterfall of mercy.
After Christ won for us salvation on the cross, the soldiers pierced his side, and flowing forth came blood and water. Jews during that time would immediately connect the blood and water flowing out of his side to the blood and water from animal sacrifices that flowed out of the temple into the Kidron Valley. The blood of animal sacrifices were used to purify the Israelite’s of their sins. How much more does the blood of the unblemished lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the new temple, purify us?!
Blood and water are a sign of mercy for us. The combination of blood and water is also present at two other major events in human life – birth and consummation. When Christ breathed his last, he cried, “It is finished,” or from Latin it is also translated, “It is consummated” (the marital act, the sign of the sacrament of marriage). After dying for our sins, Christ was then pierced and the purifying water (the sign of Baptism) and blood of Christ given to us in the Eucharist flowed forth, and in this moment, the Church was born.
St. Paul, as well as St. John Chrysostom, make this reality known to us in their first century writings. St. John Chrysostom tells us, “since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: ‘Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!’ As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.”
As God breathed life into Adam, he breathed life into the Church through the Holy Spirit. The gospel today says, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained’ ” (John 20). Through the same breath that gave life to Eve, the new Eve – the Church born from Christ’s side – is given the authority to forgive sins. Therefore, through the Church, through the sacraments and the forgiveness of sins, we are given life. Gifted to us by Christ, all the sacraments bring life and peace to the Church.
On the first official Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, John Paul II canonized an important saint of our times: St. Faustina. Since the 1930s, the image of divine mercy given to us through Sr. Faustina has been elevated in churches around the world because of it’s beautiful message of mercy through the blood and water flowing from Christ’s side. Sr. Faustina wrote a dairy of all her encounters with Jesus. In one of her encounters, Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy” (Diary, p. 132). To find peace, we must return to the sacraments that are offered to us in Jesus Christ. Let us trust in mercy of the blood of Christ and allow the water of our baptism to flow over us and bring us peace.
Follow the link to read Blessed Pope John Paul II’s first Divine Mercy Sunday homily: