I remember, as though it were yesterday, the time my grandfather and I became blood-brothers.
We were sitting in our usual spot – a hammock hung between two pine trees in my grandparent’s front lawn that looked out over the Apple River and the little village of Hanover, Illinois. Papa sat to my right, dressed in his usual necktie – even though it was a hot summer afternoon – and with a pair of binoculars in hand. As we swung gently in the hammock, we played our favorite game: “I spy,” as we each challenged each other to look through the binoculars in search of something far off in the distance.
On this particular afternoon, Papa decided that our friendship needed a little something more. “Let’s be blood brothers,” he said to me, as he pulled out a pocket knife and opened it to reveal a shiny, gigantic blade.
“What does that mean, Papa?” I asked. As he proceeded to make a small cut on his forefinger and took my little hand in his to do the same for me, he said, “It means that nothing will ever come between us.” He then pressed his withered finger to mine, joining together the life force of each of us, and said, “There. We’re forever the best of friends!”
Blood is a powerful sign, full of life and possibilities. When it came time to seal and ratify the ancient covenant with his chosen people, God commanded Moses to sprinkle the blood of sacrificial goats and bulls upon the tabernacle, the vessels of worship, and upon the assembled people as well. To seal the covenant in blood was to manifest the fidelity that it entailed – nothing could ever come between God and His beloved people.
Each year, on Good Friday, the blood that is shed by Christ in His betrayal, His agony and pain, and His suffering upon the cross is the sign of a perfect love that can never be broken. The blood poured out from the Lord’s side is a sign of new possibilities, as the Church is born and walks with hope in every generation. In today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we encounter these profound words:
In the days when Christ was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.
Christ’s blood is the mark of “perfect obedience,” a willingness to believe that even in darkness and doom, death and despair, the Father hears the prayer of the one who trusts in Him. The Father responds with the promise, the assurance, of life.
Blood is a powerful sign, full of life and possibilities. Today, as we cry out to God with prayers and supplications for our Church, for those of other faiths and those who have no faith at all, and as we lift up to God all who are in need of healing, we unite these prayers to the wood of the cross, and we once again renew the covenant God has made with us in Christ – a covenant of fidelity and undying love, a covenant of friendship with a bond that can never be broken.
Fr. Steve S. Wilbricht, C.S.C., is a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He is an Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department at Stonehill College. He shares this Good Friday homily with us as part of the Spes Unica Blog's ongoing coverage of the Easter Triduum.