Romans 5:15
For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
There is an important distinction that was made in the reading from Romans today.
It may seem like a simple and ordinary word, but it does have important ramifications. The problem that we have is over the word “many”. In our revised Roman Missal, in all of the Eucharistic Prayers, the word “many” is now there instead of the word “all” at the words of Consecration.
This change is important because of a heresy called: “universalism”. Universalism is the belief that everybody is going to be in heaven. That God, because he is a merciful God, would never condemn anyone to hell for all eternity.
The problem with this is that it goes against Scripture. Jesus himself said “many are called, few are chosen.” In another place he says “the road to hell is wide and smooth and many there are that find it; the road to heaven is narrow and rough and few there are that find it.” In yet another place, at the Last Supper, according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus says that his body and blood is available for “many”, not all.
So, the church in applying what Jesus said, directs us to use the word “many” during the Eucharistic prayers. Now, I have heard this from another priest celebrating the Mass since the new missal came out. He said: “for many and for all.” This is a dangerous thing to play with. It is important that we use the words the church has guided us to, especially since it is guiding us to a quote from Jesus.
Priests who abuse their own priesthood by deciding to change the words of consecration are creating a huge problem. We need to recognize that while Jesus died for all, that is not the same thing as His SUSTAINING us by His Body and Blood. Yes, Jesus did die for all of humanity. But we must be in Communion with Him and his church in order to receive His Body and Blood with any benefit!
Priests who think they know better than Jesus’ own words are doing a disservice to the People of God! I admit that it would be easier if we could say that The Body and Blood of Jesus is useful for all. But there are those that do not believe that it IS the Body and Blood of Jesus, and if they choose to receive His Body and Blood while not believing, St. Paul warns in another place, that they eat and drink condemnation on themselves!
We cannot – we dare not – alter the words of Jesus in the Eucharistic Prayers!
It is a tragedy that there will only be some, or many, who choose to follow Jesus into heaven. But it will not be all. This is what Jesus is trying to get across to us throughout the Gospels, and in quoting him at the Mass.
Any priest that is adding to the Eucharistic prayers what he thinks is correct, meaning “for all”, in addition or instead of “for many”, is doing a disservice to the people of God.
When I did a little research into the words of consecration from the Gospels, or the reference that St. Paul has in Romans today, it is very clear that the word is “many”, not “all.”
Why is this such a big deal? Remaining faithful to the biblical record, and to the guidance of the church in our prayers, reveals the dangers that are there for people who fail to follow Jesus. We cannot say ALL are going to be saved. We can say God WANTS everyone saved! But not everybody will CHOOSE to be saved.
Not everybody will choose to love God. Not everybody will choose the life of faith we have come to know and desire. The word in the Eucharistic prayers, as well as in our reading today, reminds us that it is only a PART of humanity that will see heaven because of who Jesus is.
And, yes, that is a tragedy. Hell is a serious reality. It is one that none of us want to face. By recognizing what Jesus did in giving us the Eucharist, we have the best opportunity that God offers for us to be in heaven with Him.
During this season of Lent, we are called to recall the risks of living a life without choosing Jesus. He calls us to this relationship; invites us to His supper, His Last Supper, where we have an opportunity to eat His Body and drink His Blood.
Now, if there is a reason you cannot come to Communion – please understand me – please hear me – if you have a longing for that Sacramental Grace, trust in the mercies of God. While you may be prohibited from receiving Communion at this time, do not think you are necessarily excluded because you cannot take Him to yourself. There is something called a Spiritual Communion.
Personally, and this is my opinion, red flag, my opinion, I think some people who receive only a Spiritual Communion, because they cannot come forward to receive Communion, walk away from Mass with more grace than some people who receive Communion every week with little conscious thought of what they are doing.
Think a moment! Jesus died. His death is beneficial for the many. Even though he wished that it would be for all. Trusting in his sacrifice, living in the grace that you can receive, believing in his mercy, is almost… ALMOST… as valuable as receiving Communion. Besides, some people are not really very aware of the presence of Jesus, even when they ARE receiving Him in Communion! I am sorry if that sounds judgmental, but… to be honest, there are times when I get through Mass and wonder how I got so far without REALLY being with Jesus in prayer. If that happens to me, I think it is safe to say that others are distracted during Mass as well. Be honest…
There are a lot of people who come to Communion out of habit: this is what you do at this point in time in the Mass. They do not seem – this is the impression – they do not seem to be reflecting on the magnitude of receiving Jesus. This is especially true for those who leave Mass right after Communion. I am sorry if that sounds judgmental, but…
So, if you are aware of the gift He has given, and desire to receive His Mercy, even if you cannot receive Communion for some reason today, you can trust that you are counted among “the many” who will receive that eternal mercy from God, if that is the longing of your heart.
Jesus, I first of all pray for those who do not know you. Who do not understand what you have done, and how important it is to know you, and to love you. Help them to find their way to you with an open heart that they too may rejoice for all eternity in your mercy and love.
I pray also for those who DO know you but because of circumstances in their lives cannot receive Communion. Open the eyes of their hearts so that they can see that you are still with them and desire a Spiritual Communion with them RIGHT NOW that will lead them also to your mercy and love.
I pray for all those who will receive Communion today. Help them to do so with a lively faith, and a desire to know your mercy and love.
Finally, I pray for myself and my brother priests that we can all share the message of your divine gift; that we will remain faithful to the teachings of the church; that we will all be holy priests in service to you, our divine and Eucharistic Lord, that we too may know and share your mercy and love. Amen.