Today we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Church gives us the Gospel story of the soldier’s lance piercing the side of Jesus to make sure he was dead. I went to the book about John’s Gospel written by Father Raymond Brown. Let me first explain about Father Brown, while I put myself in the picture too.
I was born five months before Ray in 1928, and so far I have outlived him by fourteen years. When Father Brown was ordained in 1953 his parents were living at Coral Gables or one of the cities down the coast. That was part of this Diocese of St. Augustine, so Ray was one of us.
While I was sent off as far as they could send me, Ray was put into deep research work on the Bible. He became the world’s most highly regarded expert on the Gospel according to John. This is amazing: he was given honorary doctoral degrees from twenty-eight of the world’s finest universities.
Now, while the last eight chapters of John’s Gospel cover just eleven pages in our Bibles, Ray’s commentary on those eight short chapters takes up twelve hundred pages.
In searching out St. John’s meaning for what John wrote about the soldier’s lance thrust, Ray quoted from very saintly and scholarly analyses that has come down to us. Without reaching an explanation of his own, he leaned toward two ideas.
First, he said the word St. John used for the lance thrust described a slight pricking, rather than a deep thrust. Seemingly, it was the soldiers way of knowing that Jesuss was completely dead. St. John attached importance to it because it announced to the world that Jesus was dead as dead could be before he rose on Sunday.
As for the blood and water, Ray Brown leans toward seeing this flow as coming from the pleural membranes that had medicated themselves with natural liquids after the cruel scourging.
For us on the Feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus the most important verse from the account of the death of Jesus might be the one where Jesus prayed for his torturers, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The message to us from the Sacred Heart of Jesus is that we must open our hearts to every last one of God’s children.