"His Blood Be Upon Us"

(Palm Sunday Homily)

Yes Im covered with blood, Raskolnikov said with a peculiar air. Crime and Punishment, Part II, Chapter 8

As we begin our celebration of Holy Week--our last one before the new millenium--I would like to focus on the verse where the people cry out, "His blood be upon us." I do so first to clear up a misunderstanding--but more important to uncover their deeper meaning.

Those words were sometimes used in a terrible way--to justify anti-semitism, the persecution of the Jewish people. That is a misapplication because, as I will try to show, the reference to Jesus' Blood is theological--and it applies not just to the Jewish people, but to all of us.

To understand this we can start with the common phrase about someone having "blood on his hands." It means being guilty of a crime. With modern DNA tests the tiniest speck of blood can show who is to blame. Today's readings are like a theological DNA test which reveal an astounding conclusion: each of us has some of Jesus' blood on our hands. We can't shift the blame to the Jewish people. I'm convinced that much anti-semitism results from an attempt to escape our own personal responsibility*. It's always easier to blame someone else. But in the case of Jesus, it will not do. We all have some of his blood upon us.

How can this be if we are living 20 centuries after Jesus' death? Well, I am going to mention a word some of us have a hard time talking about. It is that three-letter word beginning with "S." It's not the one many of you are thinking. I am talking about sin. It is our sins which connect us with Jesus death.

Now that is a pretty awesome realization--that Jesus is on the cross because of my sins and yours. But it should not frighten us. The Bible tells us we have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is Jesus himself as we say before communion, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

That should give a important clue--we receive Jesus' blood upon us, his very life when we partake of the sacraments--baptism, confirmation, communion, confession and so on. We are fortunate during Holy Week to accompany the elect who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. The following Saturday Archbishop Brunett will confirm some forty of our young people. In addition about 120 children will receive their First Holy Communion during the Easter season.

As we accompany those who receive the sacraments for the first time we ask Jesus to renew the power of his life within us. In that sense with humble hearts we say, "may his blood be upon us."


*For example, it was me, not someone else, who took what did not belong to me. Or who betrayed someone by repeating a tale. Or who did not have the courage to stick up for my faith. At the time it seemed like the easiest course, but now that we look at Jesus on the cross, we see sin for what it really is. That is the plain meaning of today's first & second readings.

From Archives:

2015, Year B: New Mind and Heart Week 6
2014, Year A: Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 6
2013, Year C: Strengthen Your Brothers
2012, Year B: A Loud Cry
2011, Year A: The Blood of Martyrs and of Jesus
2010, Year C: The Good Thief
2009, Year B: God's Justice
2008, Year A: Your Will Be Done
2007, Year C: What Do We Have To Offer God?
2006, Year B: Body and Blood
2005, Year A: A Week to Remember
2004, Year C: The Passion of the Christ
2003, Year B: He Breathed His Last
2002, Year A: Human Guilt & Divine Mercy
2001, Year C: An Honest Thief
2000, Year B: Why This Waste?
1999, Year A: His Blood Be Upon Us
1998, Year C: The First Letter of God's Alphabet

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