“CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just been named the grand prize winner of a fabulous sum of money! To claim your prize, please call the number at the end of this message! Congratulations!”
Most of us probably know that these sort of “prizes” are scams, especially when they want your personal information and social security number! Well, the Eucharist is a sort of prize in some ways. Unlike the statement above, or the phone calls and e-mails you probably receive far too often, it’s not a scam at all, but each of us must respond to lay claim to that prize given by Christ.
We’ve been talking about the Institution Narrative, and the important and powerful words of Christ that he spoke to us at the Last Supper. One of the more controversial parts in the new translation of the Roman Missal comes up at this point: “…which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” That’s a big change from “for you and for all”! We might react very negatively to this change, but we should ask ourselves, “What is the Holy Spirit and the Church trying to show us here in this translation?”
There are a few basic reasons for this change. On the basic level, it is a better translation of the Latin text: “pro multis” is better translated “for many” than “for all.” It’s also a biblical change. Isaiah 53:12 reminds us that the Messiah would come to take away “the sins of many”, and Matthew and Mark both recall Jesus’ words as being this way as well.
But does that mean that Chris died only for a select few? Simply put…of course not! It is one of the most solemn dogmatic truths that Jesus died for all of us and for all mankind. St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians even reminds us, “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” Christ died for all of us, regardless of age, gender, race or even creed. Think about that! Christ died for the atheist down the street as much as the person with the 3:00 am adoration slot! Christ even died for those who hated him – Pontius Pilate, Herod, the Jewish leaders who condemned him, the Romans, etc. That offer of salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross is extended to all.
But…the reality is that we have to accept that, and embrace the grace that Christ won for us. Sadly, there are some in our world who don’t want to accept that gift of salvation, and out love and respect for their free will, Christ acknowledges this. Like that prize money, you’re only going to win it if you call back. Each of us has to accept Christ’s grace and then try to do our best to live by it in order to share eternal life. This should remind us that salvation is not automatic or mechanical! You and I have to go out there and respond daily to Christ’s offer for salvation, embracing his gifts to us by receiving the Sacraments, worshipping with the community, praying frequently, and doing acts of love for others, especially the poor and sick.
This is also an opportunity for us to pray for those who have declined that offer for now, that they might someday lay claim to the salvation won for them. So this week, maybe consider how you want to respond to Christ’s gift of himself. Do you desire to be one of the many?