For Many

(Homily for Twenty-Eighth Ordinary Sunday - Year A)

Bottom line: In a few weeks we will hear a more exact translation of Jesus' words: "My blood...poured out for many." We can be part of that joyful multitude. By prayer, by the sacraments We can each day increase our taste for God.

You probably know that at the end of next month we will have a revised English missal. To help prepare for this change, I want to say something about the new translation - in light of today's Gospel. To lead into the topic, I start with a joke:

Once a priest - at the beginning of Mass - was having trouble with the church sound system. He started tapping the microphone and muttered, "There's something wrong with this microphone." The congregation dutifully responded, "And also with you!" (smile)

Well, that joke will soon be out of date. When we inaugurate the new English translation, instead of saying, "And also with you," the congregation will respond, "And with your Spirit."

Why the change? There are a number of reason. First and most obvious: "And with your spirit" more exactly translates the Latin, "Et cum spiritu tuo." The Latin itself goes back to the Hebrew: "Spirit" (ruah in Hebrew) represents the entire person in his unseen dimension - his power to relate to God and to others. So the congregation is wishing that Lord be with the celebrant's spirit - his deepest being. To lead the people in worshipping God, the celebrant needs the Lord profoundly present inside him. For that reason you will say to me, "And with your spirit." There's more to say about this, but I will save it for our parish workshop in November.

This Sunday I would like to address the words we hear in the central part of the Mass - the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Instead of saying Jesus' Blood is shed "for all" the priest will say "for many."

There are important reasons for this change. First, like "and with your spirit," the words "for many" more accurately translate the Latin text. The Latin says, "pro multis." You can easily recognize that "multis" contains the root of English words such as "multiply," "multitude" and "multiple." Those words imply a big number, but do not necessarily mean "all." Christ of course did die for all, but redemption is not mechanical or automatic. Jesus offers sufficient grace to all. We, however, have to open ourselves to that grace.* In the Bible it clearly states that Jesus offers his life "for many." For example, in Mark 14:24, Jesus says, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." Yes, Jesus died for all, but not all want his blood upon them.

We see that in today's Gospel. Jesus speaks about a king with a long list of people invited to a wedding banquet. The banquet is heaven - as our first reading makes clear: "a feast of rich foods and choice wines" where God "will remove the veil that veils all people...he will destroy death forever." Sadly the invited guests refuse to come. They have more important things on their mind. They even make fun of the king's messengers and mistreat them.

All are invited, but not all respond. It's hard for us to come to grips with the fact that not everyone might be saved. Yet that is the conclusion of today's parable: "Many are invited, but few are chosen."

I have to be honest. I do not like the idea that some might be excluded from heaven - especially when I consider that one of those people might be me. I am confident about God's love - but I am not so confident about myself. For that reason I ask: How could a person be excluded from heaven?

Well, it is important to understand that heaven is a banquet. Everyone likes the general idea of a banquet, but regarding any specific banquet it depends on what is on the menu. Some people love oysters while others can hardly stand to look at the little mollusks. The same can be said about other foods. French eat "escargot" and Mexicans have a soup called "menudo." Escargot are ordinary garden snails and menudo is made from a cow's belly - tripe. A person has to be willing to try them in order to appreciate how delicious they might be.

Something similar applies to heaven. Not that it will make a difference whether we have a taste for oysters or tripe or snails. It will matter, however, if we have a taste for God. Even though we are made for God, in this life we have to develop a taste for God. We have a "God shaped hole" in our hearts - but we can try to fill that holes with other things - a kind of spiritual junk food. People often do not go to Mass because "it is boring." Well, a salad is boring in comparison to French Fries. But a person can cultivate a taste for salad - just like a person can develop a taste for God.** We have to allow God to make us ready for heaven - to have a taste for him

Hell, on the other hand, is a self-made prison. A man builds his own hell out of things such as anger, pornography, hurt feelings, vanity, false self image and lies. They become his daily diet - and he loses (or never acquires) a taste for God. Heaven's banquet (which is nothing more and nothing less than God) holds no attraction for him - other things seem more compelling.

So, yes, Jesus shed his blood for all - and he invites all to the heavenly banquet. But not all accept the invitation. In a few weeks we will hear a more exact translation of Jesus' words: "My blood...poured out for many." We can be part of that joyful multitude. By prayer, by the sacraments we can each day increase our taste for God. Amen.

**********

*On this point, the homilist could develop the image of the wedding garment. As Fr. Benedict T. Viviano, O.P., observes: "This (the wedding garment) representas a converted life full of good deed. Sinners are invited, but expected to repent." (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary)

**In his homily at the "Red Mass" in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Sartain made a similar point: "As human persons we are not fully alive even if we follow a balanced, healthy lifestyle and nourish ourselves with all that is good and beautiful in culture unless we live for something beyond ourselves, unless we give ourselves to Someone beyond ourselves."

General Intercessions for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Twenty-eighth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Trust No Matter What Week 3
2011: For Many
2005: Taste for God
2002: Reverence During Mass
1999: Why Some Do Not Enter

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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