20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B
St. Francis De Sales Church
August 19, 2012
Blood Lines: Human and Divine
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato
Human Blood Lines
During World War II, the Red Cross made blood available to all who needed it – ally or enemy.
The Red Cross would also try to provide the soldier with the name of the donor. That way the soldier could write a note of thanks if he wanted to do so.
A very poignant custom developed among the Red Cross medics in Europe. If a Nazi officer needed blood, they would find a Jewish donor.
The medic would then tell the officer, “The bad news is: If left to your own strength and resources, you will die. The good news: We have blood that will save your life – blood from a Jewish donor.
“All you have to do is accept it.” Astoundingly, a few Nazi soldiers refused the blood.
But most of them gladly accepted the blood from a fellow human being – and in their case a Jewish donor. And, to accept life through this blood demanded a new view and attitude toward Jewish people.
Divine Blood Lines
In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the gift of himself that he offers us.
He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.
He continues, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” We see then, that Jesus gives us himself, his flesh and blood as he says, in the signs of bread and wine.
And Jesus gives us himself in this way for one purpose – for life, that we may live in him and he may live in us. Thus we are given a different life, Jesus’ life, God’s life, through the flesh and blood of Jesus.
Those Nazi officers received life by accepting blood transfusions from Jewish donors. They had a new life in them and this led to a new life and new outlook in them.
In a similar way, our receiving Jesus’ flesh and blood in the bread and wine is to lead to a new life, a new lifestyle, a new outlook in us. It does this precisely because we have the life of Jesus and of the Father through this food.
I see two impacts that this new life will have in us because of our “transfusion” from Jesus’ own body.
First, we like God the Father can now to be life giving. We have the ability to be creative, sustaining, and enhancing of human life wherever we encounter it.
For example, we are to be in awe of the tiny, developing life of a baby in the womb of a mother. We are to do all we can to care for this life and bring it to full development and birth.
We are to tend the life of one another, beginning with those close to us. We are to tend carefully to the total development of our children, and also provide tender, supportive care for our elderly.
In the bigger social picture, we are to seek and promote ways to provide health care to everyone. Our Catholic social teaching sees this as a human right, closely connected to the right to life itself.
Second, our receiving the transfusion from Jesus’ is also to make us bridge-builders.
The Nazi officers who accepted the blood from Jewish donors were led to see themselves as physically connected with these men and women, to see them as brothers and sisters.
We who receive Jesus’ flesh and blood will be affected in a similar way.
For example, in our families, we are to live our connection with the so-called black sheep who may have been a problem.
We here in Harford County are to see our connection with those in Baltimore City whose life situation is probably very different from ours. We in America are to see that we now live in a global world with all nations.
What is important may no longer be that we are first and others are second or third, but that we are all “we” and we will all live together. We in the Church need to abandon an exclusivist, insider-outsider mentality and adopt an inclusivist, welcoming mentality.
So, the story of the Red Cross medics is pointed and helpful.
It helps us realize what our receiving the body and blood of Jesus, the life of God moves us to do. We also are to embrace a new life and new lifestyle in being life-giving and bridge building.