Monday, December 17, 2018
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
Since 2011, the Church in the United States has used the English version of the third edition of the Roman Missal, approved in 2000 and published in 2002.
The Spanish version was delayed much longer. It was published in Spain in 2017. Here in the United States a Roman Missal was printed in Spanish, very similar to the Mexican version. Although the printing was completed in May of 2018, it was fully implemented Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent.
The words of the new Missal for the consecration of the wine have taken some parishioners by surprise. It seems a novelty to them that it says that the blood is “poured out for you and for many,” when until now the Eucharistic Prayers said, “for you and for all.”
Actually, the current formulation is not new, but a return to the text used before Vatican II. That Missal, promulgated by St. Pius V in 1570, said, “pro vobis et pro multis,” that is, “for you and for many.” And the first post-conciliar missal, promulgated by H.H. Paul VI in 1969, said “for many.”
On October 17, 2006, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, instructed the episcopal conferences so that the new translations would say “for many.”
Most editions after 1969 said “for all men.” That change was perhaps inspired by a 1935 work of Joachim Jeremias. The famous exegete said that “many” is a Semitism that does not exclude the totality. However, in a letter to the German bishops dated April 14, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI rejected that “many” and “all” were interchangeable. Writing “all” would not be a faithful translation, but an interpretation.
The people ask, “What now, then? Did Jesus Christ die for all or only for many?” It is a valid question.
One cannot doubt the universal salvific will of God, as the Apostle teaches: “God our savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth ... Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:3,4, 6)
However, according to St. Mark, Jesus also said that he came “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). Therefore, there is a scriptural basis in favor of Jesus dying for all and for many.
The phrase “for many” underscores a great truth that some avoid, namely, that although the Lord died for all, those who welcome salvation are many, but not all. With his characteristic clarity, the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, said, “Christ's Passion sufficed for all; while as to its efficacy it was profitable for many.” From the liturgical point of view, it is a fact that the blood shed by Jesus for all on the cross comes in the chalice of the Mass to many, not to all. Moreover, Communion gives sanctifying grace only to the many who are well prepared to receive it: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).
There is a tendency to emphasize divine mercy unilaterally without taking into account its justice and human freedom. Salvation is a proposed gift; it is not imposed. The value of the blood of Christ poured out in sacrifice depends on the free human acceptance. In the fourth Gospel, human reception is expressed in terms of faith: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (Jn. 6:40).
The need for human cooperation in eternal salvation is also stressed in the synoptic gospels. Let us recall the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt. 7:21). This great truth is also expressed by the image of the narrow gate: “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:14).
In the name of compassion, it is difficult to accept eternal damnation. But the faith of the Church is clear about it. In the year 1336, Pope Benedict XII wrote, “We define that the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately after death.” The current catechism teaches the same doctrine: “To die in mortal sin without repenting or accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice” (CC No. 1033).
We have gone as far as accepting the reality of hell, but denying its eternity, based on a subjective interpretation of “apokatastasis.” There is a verse in the Acts of the Apostles (3:21) with that word: “... the Messiah whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration” (apokatastasis). The Church teaches that the condemned remain in that state for eternity. “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity” (CC No. 1035).
The apostolic mission of the Church demands tirelessly preaching that humans must be responsible. What we think, say, do or fail to do makes us good or bad, and has eternal consequences.