On 1 July 2016, as they do every year, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land and the faithful of Jerusalem gathered in the Basilica of Gethsemane to celebrate together the solemnity of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
After the reform of Vatican Council II this liturgical feast has been united with that of the Most Holy Body of Jesus Christ (Corpus Domini). The Fraternity of the Custody, however, continues to celebrate it separately, since the Shrine of the Agony on the Mount of Olives conserves the physical memory of the Lord Jesus who sweated blood on the night of his arrest. The phenomenon, known in medicine as hematidrosis, is linked to the spillage of the serum from the veins as a result of intense stress that a person might experience, and it has been recorded by the doctor evangelist St. Luke in chapter 22 of his Gospel.
This year the coincidence of the last Friday of Ramadan with this feast was the cause for preoccupation regarding difficulties to arrive at the Franciscan Basilica. In spite of this, a sizeable crowd of faithful, particularly made up of male and female religious from institutes of consecrated life in Jerusalem, could assist at the Pontifical Mass presided by the Most Reverend Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton.
In his homily the Father Custos commented a verse from the Letter of St. Francis to all the faithful, in order to show how the saint of Assisi understood the intimate link between the Blood of the eucharistic chalice, the Blood shed in Gethsemane and that shed upon the Cross. It is a precious Blood, because it is the Blood of the Lord. Fr. Francesco Patton noted that this Blood is a sign of a life which is totally given to us in order to transform us, to render us similar in flesh and blood to the Son of God, members of the same divine family.
The celebration of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus therefore means that we become part of the same gift of life, of our self-offering to the heavenly Father and to the brothers and sisters, in perfect imitation of our divine model, Jesus Christ.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, upon the invitation of the Guardian of the Shrine, Fr. Benito Choque, the numerous concelebrants and faithful present exchanged greetings in the garden of the friary, in front of the ancient olive trees that could have been the possible witnesses of the sweating of blood of Jesus. May the Blood of Christ be shed even more copiously on the entire world in order to obtain peace and redemption for each and every human person.