For All and for Many
The Conundrum in 2011.
Why did Jesus have to say ‘This is my blood which will be shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.” Why didn’t he say ‘for all’, the way we have been doing for 35 years?
And then: should we Redemptorists now change our Redemptorist Motto,- (Psalm 130, verse 7)- from ‘Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio’ to ‘Quasi-Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio’- to ‘With Him there is (a kind of) Plentiful Redemption’ ?
The Words of Institution:
St. Luke has it this way, in Chapter 22:20: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.’ (Jer. Bible), or “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (NRSV).
St. Mark has it this way: ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many.’ (JB), or ‘2“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’ (NRSV).
St. Matthew has it this way: ‘…for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (JB), or 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ‘ (NRSV).
St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:25 has it this way: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ (JB), or “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
Q. WHY THE MANY? WHY NOT ALL?
The blood is shed for all. But not all receive it, not all welcome this outpouring.
Is there some part of an answer in Luke 8: 11ff?
11 – “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
The seed was the Word of God. The same Word was cast for everyone, One Word, given to all, but not all received it.
Or is there some answer in Luke 13:34 ?
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’
‘How often I desired… but you were not willing!’ Again, love ‘poured out for all’ but not all received.
We notice MATTHEW 20:28: “…just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Obviously, from his life, Jesus poured out his life for all,- but again, not all received this gift
Take ISAIAH 53, the great prophecy of the Passion of the Servant: note the ‘all’ and note the ‘many’:
4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.* When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11… The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
12…because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
So, here we have the same conundrum,- ‘the iniquity of us all’ and ‘the sin of many’.
The GIFT and the RECEIVING:
Perhaps there is an answer- even an uncomfortable one- in the conversation with Nicodemus in John Chapter 3: There is the proclamation of the Gift, and there is the challenge to receive, to believe in the One Who was Sent, -Jesus. Read it below: (John 3:14ff.)
‘And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 – “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Is there a key in this,- that the receiving of the Gift is profoundly important also? The Sending is important, but the welcome, the ‘belief’ of the whole person, is the challenge posed by the wonderful Gift sent.
‘How often I would have gathered you… but you were not willing.’
The challenge of the gift offered to us is to begin Life again with this new Life offered, to be open to this gift,- or ‘born anew’ as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.
The other image is that of LIGHT,- the Light that came into the world, but was not accepted by many. This imagery fills the opening Chapter of John: see this passage:
JOHN 1: The Word Became Flesh
1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 – There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 – He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 – And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.’
The language is that of ‘accepting’ the light, of ‘knowing’ the One who came into the world, of ‘receiving’ him, ‘believing’ in him. It is the language of ‘RESPONSE’-ability.
‘From his fullness we have all received’. He shed his blood for ALL, but not all received him. In this sense, he shed his blood FOR MANY.
We cannot take our eyes off: ‘God so loved the WORLD’ !
Nor can we take our eyes off our need to make a human response,- to open our eyes to the gift given to us, and our lives in response,- the need for a response of ‘knowing Christ Jesus’, that is, of faith.
Perhaps the revised wording in the Eucharistic Prayers, returning to the words of Christ himself, may help us to re-discover a richer understanding, for ourselves and for those to whom we minister, of the Mysterium Fidei, the mystery of faith,- the Good News that has come, ¬and the Challenge to us to respond.
‘Copiosa’ or ‘Quasi-Copiosa’ ?
The ‘Copiosa’ is God’s, the ‘Quasi’ is ours.
The Abundance is Christ’s, the Meagerness is ours.
The ‘All’ is Christ’s, the ‘Many’ is us.
In proclaiming the Mysterium Fidei, -the Good News of God in Christ,- we keep the abundance of God’s giving and our meagerness of response, together.
‘He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?’ (Romans 8:32)
Seamus Devitt, C.Ss.R.
Sept. 10, 2011.
See also www.emptifulvessels.com