“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”
In these days, we speak much of renewing the Catholic Church. We have a new Pope, who, in taking the name “Francis”, invokes the memory of someone else who once repaired the Church…
In the ruins of San Damiano, Francis of Assisi heard a call: “repair my Church.” It was the voice of Jesus, speaking to him from the Crucifix on the wall. At first, Francis believed that he was called to repair only that specific building, the church of San Damiano, but eventually it became clear that he was called to repair the universal Church, which in those days had lost her passion for her King.
That St. Francis was beneath a Crucifix when Jesus called him is beautifully symbolic: after Jesus had died on the Cross, his side was pierced with a lance, and from His Heart flowed blood and water. That, said the Church Fathers, was when the Church itself began, for the blood and water stood for Baptism and the Eucharist:
The Gospel relates that when Christ had died and was still hanging on the Cross, the soldier approached Him and pierced His side with the spear, and at there came out water and blood. The one was a symbol of Baptism, the other of the Mysteries.
~St. John Chrysostom
Now, it seems likely that anyone standing beneath the Cross as Jesus was pierced would have gotten some of the Blood and Water on him. One can almost sense that as St. Francis stood beneath the Cross of San Damiano, that some of the precious Blood and Water must symbolically have dripped on him: his mission of renewal came from the Heart of his Lord, and it was rooted in the Sacraments, especially a love for Jesus in the Eucharist. St. Francis was able to repair the Church, because he took her back to her source: the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
If the Church is to be renewed and repaired in our day, we must stand beneath the Crucifix, too. We must find our strength in the Blood and Water flowing from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For, in the grace brought to us at Baptism, we are children of God, and in the Eucharist we encounter the Crucified One, who is Risen Again and with us even unto the very end of the age, and who loves us with an undying love. We must heed the call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to center our lives around Christ Jesus, and to allow Him to give us the grace to lead holy lives.
The Church began in Jesus’ pierced Heart, she has been renewed their in times past, and today, if we would repair His Church once again, we must return to the source…