It is beautiful to start with Our Lady, she who carried the Word made flesh in her heart and her body, she through whose co-operation Our Lord was brought into the world. In the great hymn the Magnificat, Our Lady speaks of Him who puts forth His arm in strength.
If we are called to imitate Christ, what does it mean to put forth our arm in strength? We are asked to put it forth in the strength of faith. Another way, perhaps, of saying ‘put forth your arm’ is ‘reach out your hand’.
Jesus appears to Thomas, after the Resurrection. “Reach out your hand.” This is what Our Lord says to Thomas who doubts. “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Why his side? Because the soldier had already pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from He who is a fount of mercy in whom we can trust; from the one who says, “Do not doubt but believe.”
Where else do we see a flow of water and blood? The first plague of Moses. With his staff, Moses struck the river and water turned into blood. Moses did this that Pharaoh’s heart would yield.
“Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” This is the message Our Lord God sent to Pharaoh.
The first sign of Jesus, the one which revealed his glory and caused his disciples to believe in Him, was the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana. He turned water into wine and the disciples, their hearts did yield. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup of wine. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And so, through another miraculous sign, the wine was turned into blood – into His Precious Blood. And why is this Blood poured out? For the forgiveness of sins, that our heart would yield to His Sacred Heart, and that we would be let go from our slaver to sin so that we may worship Him.
From water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana, and from wine into Blood at the marriage supper of the Lamb, Our Lord fulfils the sign of Moses and frees us from the yoke of slavery.
At that same supper of the Lamb, the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining next to him and leaned back against Jesus. He, the disciple, placed his trust, his love , his life, his will, his future in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, hidden behind His chest. He was leant back against Jesus, he yielded to him and he was set free.
The first plague of Moses was the turning of water into blood. The first sign of Jesus was the turning of water into wine. And the last sign of Jesus, before His glorious resurrection, is the blood and water which poured out from his side as he hung from the cross.
“Let my people go,” said Moses and the new Moses bowed his head and gave up His spirit so that His people might be let go.
How exactly did Moses turn the water into blood? Through the power of God, and with a staff, the staff that had been turned into a snake; the staff that had swallowed up the staff of the Egyptian magicians who practised the secret arts: evil.
And from whence did come this staff? It was the sign from God for Moses. It was the staff which is the desert – in the wilderness – the Lord God told Moses to throw to the ground.
“So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’ – so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand – ‘so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abrahama, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’
And of course later, “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ “
And many years later, Jesus explained that, “just as Moses lifted the snake in the desert, so the Son of Many must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
And not much later again, the Son of Man – the new Moses – the Lord Jesus Christ – is indeed lifted up. The cross – a symbol of a torturous death, a sign of slavery, subjection and evil – is now, through the power of God, transformed into a symbol of victory, of self-sacrificial love. Light swallows up the darkness just as the staff of Moses swallowed up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians.
The Good News did not end at the death of God who hung from a cross. Because in being thus raised up on a cross, He exposed His Sacred Heart to us. In being raised on the cross, He allowed the spear to be put into His side so that blood and water could pour out. And the Good News did not end at the death of God because as well as being raised on the cross, Jesus was raised from the cross.
The great I Am told Moses, “Reach out your hand…so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared…”.
And Jesus, the one who said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’, is raised from death and appears to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
[I think most of the Scripture quotes are NRSV but I’m not sure if they all are!]