Excerpt 16
Pierced with a Lance

ST. JOHN relates the event to which this invocation of the litany refers, "The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first and of the other, who had been crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and water" (Jn. 19: 32 f.). Thus the soldiers unknowingly fulfilled what had been foretold, "Not a bone of Him shall you break." And, "They shall look upon Him Whom they have pierced" (Jn. 19:36 f.). We too wish to look up to Him Whose Heart has been pierced and reflect on the profound mystery of the event.

The Mystery of Death

Besides the loss of the supernatural life of grace through the sin of our first parents, men also suffered the loss of their bodily immortality. "As through one man, sin entered into the world and through sin death, and thus death has passed into all men, because all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). The most appropriate punishment of sin as the destroyer of life is death. Body and soul are separated in death; the very being of man is torn asunder. Body and soul are made for one another, are incomplete without each other; their separation means the end of man as a human being. Thus death atones for the separation of the soul from God through sin.

God is the life of the soul much more than the soul is the life of the body. This blessed and life-giving union of the soul with God was broken asunder through sin. Like the branch cut off from the vine, so the soul cut off from God cannot live. Nothing remains to the sinner but a remembrance of happier days with an unquenchable thirst for their return. The Sacred Heart of Jesus has quenched this thirst of the human heart; He has died and through His death has restored to us the life of God with all its bliss and happiness. This is now the life of grace; in due time it will be the immortal life of the body.

Blood and Water

According to St. Ambrose the Blood and water that issued from the pierced Heart of the Saviour is the Blood of our reconciliation and the water of our purification. In the Old Testament the high priest alone entered the holy of holies on the day of atonement, with only the blood of the victims slain beforehand. This rite was to signify that Heaven, the eternal holy of holies, had been closed to men through sin. Jesus, our Divine High Priest, entered and opened Heaven for us by means of His Own Blood. The day of Christ's death is the atonement day of the New Testament, and His Blood is the Blood of the new and everlasting testament.

The Blood is followed by water, the water of purification. That we eventually may enter Heaven we must be purified from sin and animated with Divine life. Baptism, which gives us the beginning of this Divine life, is the laver of regeneration, by which through water and the Holy Spirit we are born again and made the children of God. Waters of grace flow in abundant streams from the opened Heart of the Redeemer in the other Sacraments and they divide into numberless streamlets, flowing into every nook and corner of the human being, purifying it, giving it fertility and growth in good works. Now the thirst of the soul for God can be satisfied. "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God. My soul hath thirsted for the strong and living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?" (Ps. 41:2.) This prayer of the Psalmist is answered by our blessed Saviour pointing to His Sacred Heart, "If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink" (Jn. 7:37).

The Opened Heart

Commenting on the gospel text that records the piercing of the side of Jesus, St. Augustine says, "The Evangelist expresses himself carefully so as not to say: He struck or wounded His side, or something like it, but that he opened it. It was then that, as it were, there was opened to us the door to life, whence came forth the Sacraments of the Church, the Sacraments without which there can be no access to that life, which is the true life." It was His opened Heart that our blessed Saviour showed St. Margaret Mary Alacoque with flames of fire issuing from it. The opened Heart impresses upon us the greatness of the love of Jesus, the inexhaustible riches of His mercy. He has given us His life, His merits, His virtues, His all. He has given Himself and there remains nothing else that He could give.

"Come to me all you that labor and are burdened and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28). The Sacred Heart of Jesus pierced with a lance has thus become for us the fountain of life and holiness. Through the Blood and water issuing from It we have been cleansed from sin and shown the way of grateful, joyous, strong, self-sacrificing love. Love is strong as death. "Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it; if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing" (Cant. 8:7).

As Love has opened this Heart, so love alone can enter it.

Should it be hard to love Jesus after such manifestations of His love?

Thou, Saviour, cause that every soul
Which Thou hast loved so well,
May will within Thy open Heart
In life and death to dwell.

(Feast of the Sacred Heart.)



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