There is power in the blood

I was going to leave my cellular phone in the car last week before going into the mall but decided to carry it in case I needed the phone for an emergency. What if someone began shooting or held a group of us hostage while negotiations were in process?

Where was my faith that all would be OK?

Earlier this year, while dining at a popular restaurant with my niece, a gentleman at the table next to us casually slid his tweed blazer aside to show he was sporting a concealed weapon. A calm conversation and words of consolation from me assured my niece that we were safe.

Where was our faith?

Growing up Christian and inundated with Scripture, it is difficult for me to recall verses from the Bible when needed. Passages such as: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be worried, for I am your God" (Isaiah 4:10) or "When I am afraid I put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:3).

As a Catholic, I believe that at Mass during the consecration, wine is transformed into the blood of Christ. Beyond that, however, rarely have I referred to the blood of Christ outside of a liturgical celebration.

It is not uncommon for my friends from other religious traditions to refer to the power of Jesus' blood. To use that expression, along with being washed in the blood of Jesus, can arouse a powerful spiritual image.  

I was never quite comfortable when praying with friends who prayed in this Pentecostal fashion, to be "washed in the blood of Jesus." However, if I professed receiving the blood of Christ, why could I not profess being washed in the blood of Jesus?

I have not always been completely focused on receiving the Eucharist during Mass. There are often distractions: someone next to me coughing, a cute little boy playing hide-and-seek two pews ahead, a baby crying while another sibling spills his Cheerios under my feet.

The saving grace that pulls me from such distractions is the eucharistic prayer. The well-crafted holy words open a door to the sacred reality: "Take this and drink. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant that has been shed for you and many. Do this in memory of me."

Too often, I have not retained the reality of what I am actually consuming, not just in body, but in soul. Too often, rote and routine have made me too comfortable in the midst of holiness.

I used to awaken to a world of promise and possibility. Now I wake up with a tinge of fear and worry. My mind recalls the killings of the day before; the news of a murder-suicide; an insulting encounter; or the bitter fear of societal retrogression. It appears to me that all things morally sound and socially acceptable have taken a back seat to supremacist satisfaction, trashy talk, gregarious gratification and corporate greed.

Even children fear leaving the safety of their homes as they learn about human trafficking. Still others run away to avoid another near-fatal beating. Some children fear the bullying of a peer, a classmate who has learned words of hatred that spew from the mouth of an angry parent.

Because of all this, like my friends of different religious traditions, I am moved to call on God's power in the blood of Jesus. My prayer is not only one of gratitude for life today, but a prayer to be washed in the blood of Jesus, that life might materialize as God created it to be!

As if to do so would encase me in a protective shield of courage that would enable me to continue to forge through all of the ugly, dirty, deplorable and devastating divisions of this rotting social structure.

I pray that the power of the blood will heal a country that now seems foreign and frazzled. I pray to be washed in the blood of Jesus as if to do so will empower me to move forward with valor and determination when confronted with racism. I pray that the power of the blood of Jesus will heal this wounded and bleeding nation, the only place I know as home.

I want to be washed in the blood of Jesus because I want to find solace in God's silent embrace, not only for me, but for the millions who have grown weary and downhearted.

I want to find a passage for hope from daily disturbing breaking news, bold brazen behaviors, harmful hideous hatred, and the superficiality of strange encounters. I want to find power in the blood of Jesus!

I believe when I say "Amen" as I receive the Body of Christ my soul is awakening to that  "power in the blood."

I believe each time I receive the Blood of Christ my soul is being washed in the blood of Jesus.

I do not know all that is academically and theologically correct, but to pray to be washed in the blood of Jesus stirs a mighty presence of God within. I feel as if a strong armor has been wrapped around me and nothing can shatter me.

My awareness of today's evils that lurk in actions and stampede in speech is a wake up call to crave redemption and to understand even more the gift of salvation. To come to a greater understanding and an appreciation for: "Take this and eat for this is my body. Take this and drink, for this is my blood."

There is power in the blood of Jesus!

[Mercy Sr. Larretta Rivera-Williams is originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she is coordinator of pastoral care at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church. Since entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1982, she has ministered as an elementary, secondary and divinity school educator. She has written and produced plays as well as directed and choreographed.]

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