Reflection: Blood and Salvation
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption
We are in Holy Week. This year I have been more aware of the fragility of life because so many people I know are recovering from various surgeries. The most recent is my dog Gaby, who had knee surgery on Friday.
As I attempt to take care of Gaby now that she’s home, I am reminded of how many times I’ve wondered about what motherhood would have been like for me. I am able to do the work I do largely because I have so few responsibilities at home—except for the short time I was caring for my father, my only care has been for myself and my pets. So as I struggle to watch out for this injured creature, I can only marvel at the love and energy expended on the care for a precious child.
Of course, the great mystery of this week is the suffering of Jesus, God’s own precious child, whose love for the outcast, obedience to his heavenly father, and challenge to the establishment church and political leaders culminated in his rejection and killing at the hands of the world he came down to love.
Every year the question “why did it have to be this way?” comes to me, and honestly I don’t think this is a question any mortal can adequately answer. Even Jesus wondered about this in Gethsemane garden, and yet in faith he continued on his journey to the cross.
When I was in seminary, my spiritual hero was a woman who was undergoing chemotherapy from the breast cancer that eventually killed her. The chemo came in a bright red liquid, and she came to equate the chemo to the blood of Christ presented to all of us in communion. She even went so far as to connect the harsh cleansing of the chemo, which seemed to almost kill her in order to eradicate the cancer, with the cleansing of sin that comes with taking the cup at the Lord’s table. Are we willing to give our all, to be willing to die to self in order to gain the life that God wills for us?
As we experience the limitations and even horrors of mortal life, may we learn to appreciate the radical lengths Jesus went in order to bring us back to God. As we consider our love and care for those we love, may we remember the pain that God was willing to go through, watching Jesus die in pain and humiliation for the sake of a world that hated him. As we ask God for everything that comes to our mind, may we every once in a while take a moment of silence and dare to listen for what God might want of us, and may we trust that whatever we do for Christ, we will also find peace in the eternal love of God.
The poet Richard Jones considered the great faith of Mamie Till, the mother of Emmett Till. For mothers like her, Jesus’ sacrifice proved that God knew her pain. And through mothers like her, God’s healing and justice are furthered in this broken world. Even in the depths of our own personal pain, even as the blood of life is shed for reasons of injury or violence or even birth, may we entrust our lives to our Lord, in gratitude for the life-saving love of Jesus.
by Richard Jones
Emmet Till’s mother
speaking over the radio
She tells in a comforting voice
what it was like to touch her dead boy’s face,
how she’d lingered and traced
the broken jaw, the crushed eyes—
the face that badly beaten, disfigured—
before confirming his identity.
And then she compares his face to
the face of Jesus, dying on the cross.
This mother says no, she’d not recognize
her Lord, for he was beaten far, far worse
than the son she loved with all her heart.
For, she said, she could still discern her son’s curved earlobe,
but the face of Christ
was beaten to death by the whole world.
In faith and gratitude,