I’ve noticed that I tend to look away whenever I’m donating blood.
Even the finger-prick at the start, to check my hemoglobin: The process may be relatively painless, but it’s just something I’d prefer not to see.
Odd thoughts, surely, all stirred up by the Red Cross blood drive our parish hosted yesterday. (Then again, you have time to think a few odd thoughts as the blood is flowing from your arm into the collection bag next to the gurney.)
As it happened, I’d just spent the previous couple of hours focused on blood – discussing its rather central place in the life of the covenant, at least according to the scripture passages we broke open during our early-morning faith-sharing group.
Blood plays a starring role in Mass readings for the feast of Corpus Christi. First, we hear a tale from Exodus:
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people… Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”
I tried to place myself in the scene. My “blood-skittish” self: I couldn’t imagine this guy who tends to shy-away from pin-pricks…being all that thrilled at having the blood of young bulls sprinkled all over me.
The Israelites didn’t seem to mind being part of their messy sacrificial rite. But I kinda wonder if I would have had the same reaction. Seems like I might have said, “Thanks…but no thanks, Moses” instead.
Then in the second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, there’s still more mystery about the power of blood outpoured. We read:
[Christ] entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would have thought that “the blood of goats and bulls…can sanctify those who are defiled.” But even my confounded skepticism doesn’t keep me from noticing something intriguing about Christ. He did not hesitate to offer his full measure, to get redemption done.
Every drop of blood, poured out, by the Son of God.
He spared us nothing, in order to seal the deal…and permanently bind the covenant with God.
Christ empties himself completely – and by this grace, I think I detect a faint echo of his holy gift…as I recline there on the Red Cross gurney: the “Christ in me” overcoming my reluctance – self-centered sinner that I am, still willing to offer a bit of my own precious blood to help a stranger in need.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.