The apostle John tells us he watched the horrible scene as, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately”.

One of the soldiers thrust a lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (John 19:34)


These Roman soldiers were trained executioners who would make no mistake about a criminal’s death. Pilate ordered the legs broken, and they would not dare disobey him unless absolutely sure that Christ was already dead. These hardened Roman soldiers were the first witnesses to Christ’s death.  Jesus had already died so His legs were not broken. Clearly the eyewitness states that Jesus was dead because when the soldiers came to break his legs to hasten his death, they saw that He was already dead and there was no need to break them. John saw them, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break his legs.” Jesus “was already dead” is in the perfect tense in the original, “having died and was now dead.”

To make doubly sure that Jesus was dead, or out of one last act of hate, a Roman soldier picked up a spear and thrust it deeply into the side of Jesus.  Beyond a doubt Jesus was dead. There was no point in breaking his legs. The only reason the legs of Jesus were not broken was that He was already dead. A real man with a real human body, with real human blood, died on the cross that afternoon outside the walls of Jerusalem.

The apostle John tells us he watched the horrible scene as, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately”. No simple pricking is in the mind of the eyewitness. He sees the infliction of a wound intended to kill someone. No doubt, the soldier wanted to make doubly sure that Jesus was dead and certify to the centurion and Pilate that He was dead. The soldier probably thought, “If this Jew is not already dead, this will finish you off.”  The wound made in Jesus’ side was a large one and John witnessed “blood and water” flowing out of it. His purpose for stating what he saw was to certify the real physical death of Jesus. John was testifying as an eyewitness that Jesus had a real body and died a real human death. One of the reasons he was writing his gospel was to refute any Gnostic nonsense. It was the testimony of an eyewitness, testifying in simple language the simple facts the death of his friend. He wrote: “And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe”. He saw the bloody evidence before his own eyes. It was still vivid to him.  Moreover, it had the hand of God all over it, “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and it comes to us as an invitation to penetrate more deeply the mystery of the humanity of Christ, who out of great love laid down his life for us and poured out that wondrous love by opening His heart on the cross, bidding us to that fountain of precious blood and living water—the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and the water of the Spirit, baptism and Eucharist.  We want to drink deeply of the spring of eternal life. We gaze lovingly at His wounded heart, and are so moved that we desire too to have our hearts wounded by the fire of His love, a wound that heals our defective hearts, a wounded heart thirsting for the blood of the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.  The mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we are invited to penetrate is the mystery of God’s human heart, allowing our hearts to thirst for Him and be wounded, so that the more we love, the more we desire to love, the more our hearts suffer and are wounded, the more we find healing.  What was hidden and unseen by mortal eye, is now made visible in the open heart of Christ; what was inaccessible is now a fountain of eternal life.

A great truth of our Faith and one too often rejected today is that we must journey through death to achieve true life. This does not refer only to the “hereafter” but also to our present state. Why is this “death” necessary and what is meant by it?  Every work of the flesh must be put to death, that the life of God may be poured into us; only an empty vessel can receive Him, and only a vessel filled to overflowing with His Divine Life can manifest God’s glory in this world. The latter is our only reason for being and the only means by which we can become fully human and experience the love, joy and peace of God Himself, here and now. As we behold Christ pierced on the cross, let us see this as His final emptying of self. From His wounded heart issues the blood of the New Covenant that cleanses us of our sin and continues to nourish us in the Eucharist. Also from His rent side, pours forth the Water of Baptism that initiates our new life in Him and imbues us with His “living water” which “shall become a fountain within us to provide eternal life.”

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