Twenty five years ago I gave blood, “the gift of life,” for the first time. It is a vivid memory because of necessity it took place on Good Friday. While donating I could not help but think of Jesus and the offering of His blood. Although I had to eat hearty meals before and after the donation on a day given to fasting from food, I realized that it was a different form of fasting because I was ‘giving up’ some blood. The entire experience was simply profound.* It helped me to enter more fully into meditation on the death of Jesus, but also to some of the earlier interactions He had with those seeking healing. The people who had approached Him were seeking the gift of life, also: the spiritual life-blood of encounter with His mercy, healing, and love. Jesus came to set us free from sin and death, an act of the purest, most unfathomable love. Therefore, He went even further than giving life through healing people, giving His Body and Blood as an everlasting gift in the Eucharist. And then He gave all by shedding His Blood on the Cross. Jesus gave us the ultimate gift of life, that is, eternal life with God.
During Lent we spend more time in prayer, participate in fasting and abstinence, and increase almsgiving and works of mercy. A great way for us to grow in charity is to find inspiration in the Gospels; thus, prayer and reflection feeds our soul and consequently our ability to act. While all the gospels provide a number of healing stories, a passage that stands out is that of the life-giving healing given to a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. (Mark 5:25-34) Her bleeding would have caused a great loss in the quality of her life because it would have rendered her unclean by Mosaic Law. In other words, she would have been an outcast, cut off from the Temple, the source of spiritual life for the Jewish people. Her physical and spiritual life was ebbing away. Some could call her desperate, but her faith was indeed what saved her; she touched Jesus, knowingly rendering Him unclean too, something which could have resulted in her death for violating the Law. She knew the risks, and so she attempted to do it without Him noticing, given the tumult of the crowd. She was fearful, yet her faith enabled her to be bold enough to believe all she had to do was sneak a touch of his garment. When her deed was announced by Jesus who “felt power had gone out from Him,” she contritely admitted it was she who had touched Him, approaching “in fear and trembling” only to be gifted again by His mercy. And as if that was not enough, He gave her the additional gift of freedom from fear. (“Go in peace.”) One ‘touch’ led to the healing of body, mind, and spirit.
A point of reflection is to ask whether our words and deeds are life-giving. Do we share our faith through evangelization when the opportunity arises? Do we bring or enhance life through works of mercy, almsgiving, kindness, peacefulness, working for justice and the like? Do we go the extra mile when we see a need, or do we wait to be asked for help, and if so, do we respond? In short, those we encounter should find interactions with a disciple of Jesus to be life-giving in some way. During Lent it is important to pray and discern how to be life-giving. There are many ways to do so, all of which involve setting aside self in order to help someone else find healing through our care and mercy. Perhaps we will even help preserve life in one who feels like he or she is barely holding on. This is a time to pray about how we can be life-giving though our actions, to ask for the graces to act, and then to do so. Jesus insisted that His followers help those in need. Thus, we can help feed and clothe the poor and the unemployed or underemployed who can barely make ends meet by giving of our time, talent, and treasure; we can volunteer at a church or community center; we can reach out to a lonely person in our neighborhood, take Communion to the homebound, listen to someone who needs to talk, offer kindness to a person who is difficult in some way, spend time with our children even when we are tired, and many other little ways that do not require a lot, yet are impactful and life-giving to the one who receives. Kindness and selflessness do not require much, only that we are attentive to those who are trying desperately to touch the hem of our garments.
Lent calls us to reflect upon what we have been given by Jesus, that we take to heart His words: “What you have received as a gift, give as a gift.” (Mt 10:8) In heeding the Lenten call to prayer, acts of mercy, almsgiving, and fasting, we can give of the riches we have received to those still seeking. The season of Lent calls us to understand that growing in holiness is important, but it is only possible if we direct ourselves toward others. All the gifts we have been given are not ours to possess, but are to be given away to others so they might find healing and wholeness, too. Jesus gave His all so that we might have life to the full. As His disciples, let us do what we can to imitate Him through our small acts of love.
May we be life-giving by sharing our faith through word and deed! May we find inspiration for our works of mercy in the Gospels and in our prayer! And may we never cease approaching Jesus to touch the hem of His garment! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center uses the phrase, “Give the Gift of Life” as a motto. Giving blood is a wonderful way to offer something precious to the community if you are able to do so. ~As for giving on Good Friday and subsequently not fasting from food, I have no doubt Jesus approved of my different form of fasting.
1. Icon cross, The Cross of Life -The Flowering Cross, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I can think of no image more appropriate for this post than this one! You can purchase a copy in one of many mediums at fineartamerica.com/featured/the-cross-of-life-the-flowering-cross-william-hart-mcnichols.html
2. Wall painting, Healing of the Bleeding Woman. This was found in the Catacombs of St. Marcellinus and Peter in Rome, Italy.
3. My photo, blurred purposely, taken in northern Italy. A gesture of kindness: an injured friend being helped after a nasty fall while climbing down a mountain.
4. Painting, The Corporal Works of Mercy.
5. My photo, the Atlantic Ocean at a beach in Puerto Rico. Water is another symbol for life.
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart