When Blood Becomes Precious

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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.

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