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Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent, Be Watchful! Be Alert!

First Sunday of Advent
Be Watchful! Be Alert!

“But of the day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father.”
(Mark 13:32)

Today, the first Sunday of Advent we begin a new liturgical year and begin using The Roman Missal Third Edition with the “new changes” I wrote of in an earlier commentary this month.

Our new liturgical year is Year B with most of our Sunday Gospel readings taken from Mark’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel from Mark 13:33-37, gives us a message and a reflection for the first week of Advent. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” In this Gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the traveling land owner to drive home the point that we must live our life in a state of constant watchfulness for none of us know the time when we will be called to meet our Creator and give an accounting of our life.

“It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.” Here Jesus represents the man traveling abroad. We are the servants, who have each been given gifts (talents) and a charge (task) that we are to perform while we live and wait for the land owner (Jesus) to return.

“Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” We do not know when Jesus will return so we must not be complacent, but persevere with the task the land owner (Jesus) has given us until His return. Be Watchful! Be Alert!

And that is exactly what we hoped we would be, during the first Mass of the new liturgical year with the new edition of the Roman Missal. Armed with our “cheat sheets” the four of us responded to Father’s prompt “The Lord be with you,” with “And also with you…your spirit.” Each of us keeping a running total of who got the response right and who messed up. When the four of us are together we return to our competitive nature.

After Mass as we made our way to our favorite restaurant, the discussion revolved around the “changes,” which were determined not to be that difficult to understand. But there was one striking difference that my family did not understand.

In the old translation, during the Eucharistic prayer, at the moment the wine is transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus, the priest stated, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

Last night at Vigil Mass we heard, “Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

In the lead up to the first Sunday using the new translation, this section of the Mass had been the subject of numerous Catholic forums. I follow a "few" forums, so I had time to understand the reasoning around the change. The rest of my family does not, so they did not follow the rationale for the change. They asked for clarity. Or they just wanted to keep me busy. (Cue Maniacal Laugh from Muppet Movie) 

There were four changes in this passage, but the one that was most challenging was the substitution of the word “many” for “all,” raising the question, does this mean that Jesus did not pour out his blood for all? He has favorites?

The short answer to this question is no there are no favorites, the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus died for ALL.

The Catechism #616 makes clear “No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.”

Saint Paul leaves no doubt “He (Christ) 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.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

Saint John teaches, “He (Christ) is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2).

Jesus is emphatic, “And when I am lifted up (on the cross) from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John12:32) There is no question about it, Jesus died for the salvation of all.

So if the Church teaches that Jesus died for all, why change “all,” to a more restrictive sounding, “many?”

The simple reason is that this new translation uses Liturgiam Authenticam, meaning it is a closer translation of the original Latin. The Latin version of the Missal “qui pro vobis et pro multis,” translated into  “which shall be shed for you and for many other.” Pro multis is literally translated, “for many other.”

A fuller explanation lies in the words Jesus used at the Last Supper which are recorded in Mark as, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many,” (Mark 14:24) and Matthew as, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) Making this change in our new translation of “for all” to “for many” closer to the actual words Jesus used at the institution of the Eucharist.

But why did Jesus use the terminology “for many” and not “for all” at the Last Supper? By using for many at this point in his life, Jesus was alluding to a prophecy made by Isaiah in 53:11 regarding the Suffering Servant. “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” At the Last Supper Jesus is identifying himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant by using “for many”. He is the Heavenly Father’s faithful Son who suffered for the sake of many.

Jesus died for all and his redemptive suffering makes salvation available to all. Another way of saying this is Jesus died for many, which is open to the inclusion of all, or each and every human person. But does that mean that everyone will be saved?

The answer to that question depends on how we respond to the gift of salvation. Using Facebook terminology, we have three choices when Jesus “friends” us, accept, delete or not now.

God does not force anything on any of us. He offers it. We have free will to “accept,” “delete” or “not now” his friendship and gift of salvation. So in essence this new translation, "for many," does not decline (delete) salvation to anyone, it is still open to all. It merely means, while Jesus died for all, not everyone will be saved because not everyone will choose to accept his free gift of salvation.

“Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." At Mass each of us is invited to accept the gift of salvation and live according to this grace, so that he or she may be included among “the many,” who are called to the Supper of the Lamb. Be Watchful! Be Alert!

Light the first candle of your Advent Wreath

For gift items related to the Catholic Church
please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures

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