The Blood of Martyrs

Paul bases his ministry on the belief that all human beings, of whatever race, are called to salvation through Jesus Christ. By contrast, today’s Gospel alludes to the murder of many prophets in Old Testament times.

Old Testament terms often resonate in Paul’s writings. They include: the justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, and blood. As well as, the law or Torah, choice by God, and divine favor. Along with mystery, fullness of time, and the promise of a messianic savior. For our meditation let’s reflect on the connection between blood and life.

The Significance of Blood in Christianity

Blood in Christianity seems to always hold sanctifying properties. Such as in the blood of saints and martyrs and in the blood frequently evidenced in Eucharistic miracles. Blood also has gendered implications. Circumcision, for instance, marks the covenant between God and people.

The Significance that Life is in the Blood

Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to all the parts of the body so they can keep working. It carries carbon dioxide and other waste materials to the lungs, kidneys, and digestive system to be removed from the body. Blood also fights infections and carries hormones around the body.

Paul on the Blood of Christ

When Paul says that God made the blood of Christ an expiation for all sin, he is drawing from the imagery of Old Testament sacrifices that were meant to purge away sin. This notion of vicarious atonement is alien to many of us today, who seek a different explanation for the saving power of the cross. Through shedding his blood Christ achieves expiation for all who believe; his blood joined to that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world. Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.

For Paul, it was central that Christ’s death and resurrection were and are life-giving. They establish a bond of life with God, for all who believe in Jesus. His focus of attention is not the cross per se, but the new life which the self-giving of Christ pours into our midst. Because the outpoured lifeblood of Christ is so pure and sinless, by it we are cleansed and given a share in divine life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus mentions the blood of martyrs in arguing with Pharisees and lawyers. He condemns them for putting monuments over the graves of the prophets. It is not that He objects to honoring the prophets. We ought to honor the dead, but not so much by building shrines to their mortal remains, but by imitating their concern for others. Like the prophets, we are meant to stand up for the cause of justice. And for other people’s dignity and rights.

[Readings: Rom 3:21-30; Lk 11:47-54]

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka, PhD., BCC., ACPE Certified Educator Candidate, is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria, and a Board-Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). He is a retreat preacher who loves his faith. As a sociologist, he cherishes and operates from the vertical and horizontal relationships with God and neighbor. He takes Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace “Lord make me an Instrument of Peace,” as his ministry mission statement. He is a care provider who meets human needs without discrimination. He has been actively involved in the pastoral ministry in parishes in Nigeria and in the US. Previously, he was an adjunct lecturer at Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Umuahia and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria. Currently, he is a Certified Educator Candidate with the Department of Chaplaincy Services and Education, University of California Health, Davis, Sacramento.

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