A few months ago, I found a stray prayer card in the pew after Mass. I tucked it in my purse and later, when it tumbled out (along with two sets of keys and a granola bar), I examined it more closely.
The card described a devotion to the drops of blood lost by Jesus on his way to Calvary. A simple set of prayers — two each of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be — were to be recited while meditating on this aspect of the Lord’s passion. Various graces were promised, only a few minutes were required, and Pope Leo XIII had signed off on the practice. I decided to give it a shot.
Driving to work one morning, somewhere between an Our Father and a Hail Mary, I began to really consider those drops of blood. The first ones were hidden in the wine of the Last Supper; a few hours later, they mingled with Christ’s anguished sweat in Gethsemane.
Other drops soon flowed. Ropes chafed Jesus’ wrists as he was bound and led to the Sanhedrin, while many people, joined by the temple guards, struck him. Pilate then ordered Jesus scourged; the bits of metal and bone attached to the whip tore Christ’s flesh, exposing muscle and even bone.
Roman soldiers drove a crown of thorns into his scalp, beat him with a reed, and savaged his wounds by stripping off his tunic to dress him in a military cloak. Jesus’ blood darkened the dust of the path to Golgotha; it spattered on the hands of the soldiers who nailed him to the cross.
As his passion unfolded, Jesus chose to lavish his blood most on those who utterly despised him — those who stood inches from him, striking with fist and whip and nail.
I paused in my prayers, a single word on my lips: “Why?”
And a quiet response echoed in my heart: Who needed my blood, my forgiveness, the most?
I recalled a passage I’d read in the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish mystic to whom Christ revealed the Divine Mercy image and devotion. St. Faustina had envisioned a conversation between Jesus and a despairing soul that — believing itself beyond redemption — huddles at hell’s doorstep. In a final act of grace, Christ illumines the soul so that it can perceive his mercy, and the soul fearfully asks, “Is it possible that there is yet mercy for me?”
In one of the most profound passages of St. Faustina’s diary, Jesus answers: “You have a special claim on my mercy. Let it act in your poor soul … My child, all your sins have not wounded my heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does — that after so many efforts of my love and mercy, you should still doubt my goodness” (Diary, 1486).
The question, then, is not why Jesus gave his blood, his very life, so extravagantly to those who hated him the most. As we read the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, we ourselves speak the words of those who rejected Jesus. In so doing, we are reminded that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None of us can claim, as Pilate did, to be “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).
The real issue is whether we will humble ourselves to draw close to Christ, so we too may be washed in the torrent of love that — on an ancient Judean hill, and still today — pours from a heart beyond measure.
Gina Christian is a writer in Philadelphia and a member of St. William Parish.