EXB – 2 June 2024

Blood of Life

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

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In today’s homily, I reflected on the connection between the life-giving act of blood donation and our faith. I shared my own experience as a donor, underscoring the vital role blood plays in sustaining life. Drawing from Scripture, I likened the blood covenant of Moses to the intimacy we experience with God through the Eucharist. As we partake in communion, we’re reminded of the Lord’s deep love and the call to respond with a heartfelt “yes.” Despite our human frailties, God’s invitation to renew our covenant with Him remains. Let us embrace this divine love, allowing it to transform us as we journey together in faith.


(00:00:00) – Back when I was a student at Sydney University, there was a drive for blood donors at the university, and so I thought, it’s probably a good thing to do. So I went along and they shove this massive needle in your arm and start to draw out the blood. I then became a pretty regular kind of donor. I’ve now donated more than 100 times. In more recent years, I’ve started being a plasma donor, and that becomes even kind of more interesting because you don’t just watch the blood kind of coming out of your arm, it goes through a centrifuge, and they separate the red blood cells from the plasma, and they extract the plasma, and then they return the red blood cells back into your arm, into your body, along with a saline solution and an anticoagulant kind of mixture. So it’s sort of a fascinating reminder that blood is important. And blood is one of those essential things that we need. What happens if you run out of blood? You die? Yes. It’s pretty important.

(00:01:09) – Pretty crucial to have some blood. And Moses understood that. Were you listening to the first reading today, where we’re told that Moses has just come down from the mountain, and he’s just been in a conversation with the Lord for some time, and the Lord has given him a whole bunch of rules and laws. We call it the covenant. And first he tells the people what he’s just heard. He tells them all the laws, all of the covenant. And he says, are you on board? Do you want to do this? And everyone’s like, yes, we’ll do this. And then he writes it down. It’s the first record in the Bible that we have of someone writing the Bible down in the Bible. Then once he’s written it down, he then reads it out. So first he tells them, they’ll say yes, he writes it down, he reads it out, and then they all say yes again. So it’s kind of getting a little bit like the Mass, isn’t it? Where we listen to the scriptures, we hear these things, we ponder them, we respond to that.

(00:02:19) – You’ll be invited when you receive communion today to say, when I say the body of Christ, what will you say? Amen, because you will be responding to say yes. I believe this is what I want my life to be about. But then Moses doesn’t just leave it at that. He gets some of the young dudes to go off and to kill some bullocks. Bullocks are pretty big, so there’s going to be a fair bit of blood involved. It’s not just one, it’s several of these bullocks and he drains the blood, puts them in these big bowls and then he takes half the blood and pours it all over the altar. And then the other half of the blood. What does he do with that? Spreads it out, sprinkles it all over the people. And I thought it’d be a really good thing to demonstrate this today by getting a big bowl of blood and pouring it out all over the people, you would clearly remember it, but your parents would probably sue me for wrecking your beautiful dresses and suits and things.

(00:03:22) – So I’m not going to sprinkle you with blood. But blood is the essence of our life. God wants to be part of our lives. He wants us to experience that very intimacy. You know, it’s been said that if we just take one little step towards God, but he will come rushing down to fill the gap, to bridge that distance that might be there between us and God, that he longs to be part of our lives. He longs to be here in our presence, to just to to love us as much as we possibly can. And is there a more intimate way that God could love us than by changing ordinary bread into his very body and saying to you, take it and eat. Receive this gift. Allow this bread to be part of your body. Allow myself, my own flesh and blood to be part of you, to be part of your experience, so that slowly you will be changed by that very presence of Jesus. Do you receive that you consume, that you eat and that that becomes part of you? That’s the gift of the Eucharist, that God does not stay a long way away.

(00:04:42) – God draws near. He becomes part of our very life, part of our very being. Today he’s offering you this precious gift. He’s asking you, will you say yes? Will you say Amen to the Lord? Will you say yes?

(00:05:01) – I want to believe. Yes, I want to do these things. Yes, I will be true to all that you invite me to do. Back in the book of Exodus, when we read that the people were so keen and said, yes, we will do all these things well. If you keep reading a couple of pages later, they completely break every single one of the commandments that the Lord has just given them. And even so, the Lord invites them to come back to the covenant to be faithful once again. So even if we make mistakes, even if we get things wrong, even if we confuse things and sin, the Lord invites us to return. Last week, many of you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for today. Just to remind you that even when we turn away from God, he doesn’t turn away from us.

(00:05:57) – He’s still there, waiting, longing, loving us, calling us, and inviting us back to the table of the Lord. You’re invited to receive. You’re invited to be changed, to say yes to his love, yes to his life. So he prepared to say yes to God today.

I attempted to generate some AI images of Moses sprinkling the people with blood – which I had to change to “red water” – ‘blood’ is too offensive, it seems! The results are bizarre. Moses was clearly a larger-than-life character!


(00:00:00) – Back when I was first a university student at Sydney Uni, there was a drive for blood donors on the campus. And so I thought I probably should do my civic duty. And so I went along and donated blood for the first time. And there’s something kind of really interesting when they shove that quite large needle up your arm and the blood starts to flow out of your arm. It’s quite a quite an interesting experience. And then later in life, I’ve moved from being a whole blood donor to a plasma donor. And then it gets even more weird because they take your blood through this centrifuge and separate the plasma from the blood. And then the red blood cells are returned back to your body, along with a saline solution and any anticoagulant mixture. So it’s quite a fascinating thing just seeing this life kind of flowing in and out of your body. Apparently blood is pretty important, right? You know, we’ve seen so many movies where someone has had an accident and they’re bleeding out.

(00:01:17) – They’re not able to be sustained. And we know that unless we get help to them straight away, unless we’re able to tourniquet the wound, that person will die. You know, blood is essential. And our first reading makes that very clear. And I have to confess, I was pretty tempted to get a bowl of blood from somewhere. I thought I can go to a butcher or abattoir or something and get a large bowl of blood. It’s going to be a wonderful demonstration to sprinkle the blood over everybody in the congregation. You would certainly remember this day. I’d probably get sued, but you would remember this day! If we had that sense of how significant the blood is – and it’s absolutely crucial. I mean, Moses understood that. I don’t know how carefully you were listening to the first reading, but it gives us this quite powerful demonstration of what this is all about. We’re told that Moses reads the words of the covenant to the people. And so presumably it’s what’s just happened in the previous three chapters of the Book of Exodus, from chapter 20 to 23, when Moses receives all of these words of the covenant, all of that experience of what the people are being invited into.

(00:02:51) – And so he declares these words, and this is actually then, the first place in the whole of Scripture that we get someone writing something down. And so Moses then takes these, these words and he writes them down. We’re not told on what he writes, but he writes these words down. And then he reads it all again. And again, He invites the people: “Are you prepared…

(00:03:19) – To do, to follow, to listen to these words, to hear and obey? Shema. Shema is the same word in Hebrew – it means to listen, to receive these words, but also to follow them, to allow them to be at the very heart of what we do. And everyone says, yes, we will do these words. We will be faithful to these things. And that’s where the blood comes in, because he sprinkles half the blood on the altar and the other half on the people. And it’s again a powerful reminder that this same life essence, the same core of what it is to be alive, is being offered to God, but it’s also being offered to us. God is not a God who remains separate, who remains a long way hidden away.

(00:04:19) – He’s a God who draws near, a God who longs to be at the very essence of what we are able to experience. You know a God who is simply saying, you know, if you will just take one tiny little step towards me, I will come rushing down to bridge that gap. I will come rushing down to be as close as I possibly can. And is there a more intimate and more close way of being present to somebody than to be consumed by them? He’s offering his very body to us so that we can take that host, no longer just the host. When we were practising for First Communion on Thursday night, you know, we gave you the bread just so you were able to have that sense of what it was to what it tasted like. And yes, it tastes like cardboard. Apparently too many kids are eating cardboard these days to be telling me that it tastes like cardboard. Parents? Seriously, give them the contents of the cereal, not the packet.

(00:05:30) – That’s a much better thing. I mean, it’s probably not anyway. But what happens when you take that bread? And after I’ve prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit to descend upon that bread, it’s changed. It’s no longer ordinary bread. It has become for us the bread of life. It has become for us. The body of Jesus has become for us the gift that we’re able to take and receive, and that bread now become the body of Jesus, becomes part of your body becomes part of my body. It changes me. It transforms me. It calls me into that same life, that same gift. And so to be able to receive that precious and amazing gift, the very essence of our life, it demands of us a response, just as Moses asked and invited the people. Will you be faithful? Will you do these things? Will you let the very life essence of God be in the very presence of who you are? Will you let that change you? And they all very faithfully said, yes, we will.

(00:06:48) – And you flip the page a couple of pages and they’re breaking every single one of of those commandments. And yet the Lord is inviting us to come back again. He’s inviting us to return. He’s inviting us to be fed and nourished. The gift of the Eucharist is the main reason that I have stayed Catholic. You know, it’s the one gift that I can’t deny. You know, it’s this, this transformation that I realise it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You know, the host that you will receive today that has become the very body of the Lord won’t taste any different to what you received on Thursday night. It won’t look any different. It won’t smell any different. The colour won’t have changed. It’s not the different texture. It’s not a different size. It’s not a different shape. Nothing of what we call the accidents have changed. But the essence, the core, the substance of what that is, has now become for us this gift, this gift of the Eucharist that we can receive and be.

(00:07:56) – By receiving him, we are changed and transformed. So let’s allow the Lord to call us into that life. Let’s allow him to bring us into that freedom. Let’s respond. Let’s faithfully, as the people of God did by saying, yes, we will do these things. Shortly we’ll have the opportunity to pray the Apostle’s Creed. It’s a reminder of what we believe. So pray that with fervour; pray that with desire. Pray that even if you don’t understand all the words, but we pray it longing that that might be true, that we might be that community that have become changed and transformed. And then let the body of the Lord change us so that we can indeed be his community, his people, his body present in the world.

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