July is the month dedicated to the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lord’s blood became ‘Precious Blood’ not because it was the blood of an innocent person. Abel also was innocent. We read about the blood of Abel in at least three places in the Bible. Jesus himself once vouched for Abel’s righteousness. ‘Upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar’ (Mt 23:35).
We call the blood of Jesus ‘Precious Blood’ precisely because it was the blood of the Son of God and it was shed for us, as our ransom. Therefore the Church gives a highly exalted place for the devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus.
As for Abel, his ‘blood cried out to the Lord from the ground’ (Gen. 3:10) which rebounded from heaven as punishment to Cain. But the blood of Jesus cried out from the ground for forgiving our sins. Thus it becomes precious in our eyes, because it is the greatest sacrifice a person can make for us, and because no other person loved us to the extent of shedding his blood for us.
But there are others who offer their blood for the salvation of others. They offer their sacrifice in unison with the sacrifice of the Lord for gaining souls. July is also the month when we remember a girl who did so. July 6 is the feast day of St Maria Goretti.
The life of Maria Goretti, who could not complete twelve years on this earth, is a real challenge to our generation, especially the youth. When she was beatified in 1947 half a million people reached the Vatican to witness the ceremony and it was no surprise that the majority of them were youngsters. At the end of his address, Pope Pius XII threw this challenge to the youngsters gathered there. ‘Are you determined, with the help of the grace of God, to conquer all attacks directed against your chastity?” The crowd replied instantly; ‘Yes, we are!”
The question is the same even today. Are we determined to stay pure in the face of ever increasing volley of obscenity, permissiveness and a society that has sold itself to a licentious lifestyle? When the world offers sweet but poisonous temptations from all four sides, are we ready to repeat the words that Maria told Alessandro, who was trying to drag her into sin?
When Alessandro threatened that he would kill Maria unless she surrendered to him, her reply was something that would amaze us, as it came from a little girl of her age. “No. It is a sin. God does not want it”. But Alessandro would not heed. He stabbed her fourteen times and she had to complete the way of her cross silently suffering the pain which was increased by a surgery that had to be performed without anesthesia. She lived through these hours of agony to forgive Alessandro. Before going to heaven she forgave him and expressed the wish that she should meet him in heaven. It was her way of taking sweet revenge on the person who brutally attacked her.
Not a single drop of the blood of the righteous will go in vain. Maria won back the soul of Alessandro with her blood. His conversion was complete much before Maria was canonized.
We do not know for sure whether Maria ever read the letter to the Corinthians. ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple’ (1 Cori 3:17). But she knew how to offer true worship to God. ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’ (Rom. 12:1).
It was Assunta, her mother, who prepared Maria to opt the arduous way of suffering and death rather than defiling her body with sin. The words used by Pope Pius XII to greet this mother is a testimony to how saints are born; “Blessed Mother, Happy Mother, Mother of the Blessed!”. As the Pope uttered these words, he too couldn’t hold back his tears.
Maria Goretti is a challenge to our younger generation, and Assunta to our parents. Are we ready to accept the challenge? The Blessed Virgin laments that more souls go to hell because of the sins of flesh and the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ cries out for a generation that prefers the broad way to eternal hell by indulging in sins against purity. The blood of martyrs like Maria Goretti also cries out, in unison with the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ: “No. It is a sin. God does not want it.” Are we ready to hear?
Let us pray: Precious Blood of Jesus, the price of our redemption, grant us the grace to sacrifice everything for the virtue of chastity. Amen.