Jesus publicly suffered the most graphic, bloody death imaginable–so what’s wrong with graphic anti-abortion displays?

This extraordinary pro-life message appeared in my email box earlier today:

I understand that the Rockford diocese wants nothing to do with graphic signs, so you don’t have to worry about me involving Holy Cross. That said, I’ve given much contemplation to your thought on the Eucharist. This is what I’ve come up with:

God knows full well the effect of graphic, bloody display. It was not for nothing that His Son suffered the most graphic, bloody death imaginable–scourged and beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. Why? Wouldn’t it have been better that Jesus die by the sword in a remote location at the hands of conspirators, so that delicate sensibilities might be spared? His clean body could then have been brought out for proof to His followers before being entombed. He still would have died and conquered death through resurrection. So why the graphic death?

I believe it was because there is something to be learned through this graphic display. It underscores the ugliness of sin, the hefty price that needed to be paid, and the depth of God’s Love in a way that mere discussion could not. Ever.

In the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection, it was the cross, the bloody cross, that became the symbol of Christianity. The early Christians knew what the cross meant. They saw it all the time. Crucifixion was a public affair. But Jesus was the only One to conquer the cross and conquer death. He was the Christ. So the instrument of torture and death became the symbol of Life Eternal.

Nowadays we don’t want to be reminded of the ugliness of sin. Protestants abandoned the crucifix for the plain wooden cross. Catholics have cleaned up their crucifixes to make them bloodless, except for the wounds in His precious hands, feet, and side. The marks of the scourging have been removed, as well as, in many cases, the Precious Blood drawn by the savage thorns. We have made His beaten body pretty.

And why? We don’t want to see the truth of what our sin–my sin, your sin–has done. It’s far easier to look upon the pretty Jesus, the best friend Jesus, the “I’m OK, you’re OK” Jesus. We’re not unsettled that way. We can remain complacent in our sin, thinking, “It’s not that bad. At least I didn’t kill somebody.” Well, it is “that bad”. Just look at a bloody crucifix, if you can find one. Look at the images from the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. That’s what MY sin, YOUR sin, has done.

Yes, we have the unbloody bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ through transubstantiation. But Jesus’ disciples didn’t know that’s what He intended the day He told them, “Unless you eat my flesh…for my flesh is real food…”. The Bible says many left Him that day. Notice that Jesus had let them go.

So what if we today were presented with a bloody piece of Jesus’ flesh to eat at Mass, and He told us, “Unless you eat my flesh, you will not have life within you”? Many would undoubtedly leave Him. Why? It would still be the same Body that we now receive in unbloody form. I myself would eat it, because I want Life. I want Jesus. A piece of Jesus’ bloody flesh would only remind me more sorely of His great sacrifice.

But how many others approach the table now unworthily, in the state of mortal sin? Would Nancy Pelosi still receive Communion if she were offered Him in the form of a bloody piece of flesh? Or would she leave Him, physically carrying out what she has already done spiritually? If we were offered a bloody piece of flesh, would only 30% of Catholics believe in the True Presence as they do now? Or would 100% of Catholics believe, though there might be 70% fewer of them? How many might leave?

One thing is certain, as Jesus let his disciples go, we are not to compromise the tenets of our faith to placate those who would leave the Church because the teachings are too hard. And in actuality, God has given us that bloody flesh from time to time, in Eucharistic miracles, to strengthen our faith. God understands the effect of graphic displays. If some are revolted, so be it.

Like Jesus’ death on the cross, graphic displays of the child killed by abortion remind us of the ugliness of sin. We don’t want to see it, because it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to acknowledge that our selfishness can lead to death. So we take Jesus off the cross, we turn our eyes from the aborted baby. We show pictures of smiling babies and ultrasound images–good things, for sure, but we sweep the reality of abortion under the rug. We let people hide behind pretty words like “choice” and “rights”. Humanity is stripped by “fetus”, “tissue”, “products of conception”. We are left with the empty brace of the wooden cross.

But when we come face to face with the aborted child, we cannot deny the horror of abortion; it is no longer abstract. The child’s humanity becomes real. The effects of sin are obvious. We see the blood and it sickens us, as sin should. We can’t hide any more. And we don’t like it.

We want the pretty. Pretty doesn’t demand anything from us. Pretty lets us think everything is OK. But it’s not OK; it won’t be OK as long as babies are dying out of the sight of those who might take pity on them and put an end to the barbarity, were those people to know the reality of what goes on behind clinic doors.

When I look at the picture of the aborted baby, I don’t see something disgusting. I see something intricate and beautiful that has been profaned, tortured, torn apart. I see the face of Christ. If some are revolted, so be it. —Sylvia K.

Editor’s note: Amen!