Let us imagine ourselves to be Jewish converts to Christianity, living at the time of the Apostles. We find ourselves confronted with a difficult question.
The ancient law of our forefathers demanded a life of rigorous honesty, piety, justice, and self-discipline.
In fact, the Law of Moses demanded such intense religion and morality that generation after generation of Jews found it impossible to comply with the Law.
Then the long-expected Messiah came–and it was the God of Moses Himself, made man. He offered the perfect sacrifice which atones for all the countless sins of the past, and He mercifully reconciles us with the Creator—in spite of our hopeless unworthiness. Our religion now follows Christ Himself; He has established the definitive covenant.
But: Christ does not immediately transport us to heaven and eternal life. His Church baptizes us into His mystery, but we still live here on earth, confronted with the same temptations and evil that we faced before Christ came.
Here, then, we find the difficult question: What kind of behavior does God expect of us now?
He came to save those who were not able to follow the moral law which He had previously laid down. His Precious Blood washes away all sin. No human being could ever commit a sin which God will not forgive. This is gospel truth.
Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Can I now have my cake and eat it, too? Can I act immorally, indulge myself, play fast and loose? God will forgive, so does it matter?
This would be the distorted, funhouse-mirror image of the Gospel. Can we be surprised that, in certain corners of the ancient world, a lot of new Christians went ahead and embraced it?
St. Jude dedicated his apostolate to combating this error. Being redeemed by Christ and having our sins forgiven calls us to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, not a lower one.
Christ did not reveal an indulgent God Who doesn’t care about our sins. Rather, He revealed God’s zealous love. We meet this love not with selfishness, but with selfless love in return. God patiently forgives. We love Him back not by continuing to try His patience, but by being patient and forgiving ourselves.
The heretics taught that Christ’s cross meant that we could forget about the Law. Christ’s cross does mean that we can forget about the Law, like someone walking on the sidewalk can forget about the speed limit.
Going 85 miles an hour doesn’t stop being dangerous and illegal. Neither does impiety, profanity, malice, lust, greed, sloth, vengeful anger, or envy. They all still violate God’s law, and are punishable with a kind of justice that we definitely do not want to have to face.
But if we live for God, we may find ourselves distracted from deadly sins by things like praying and taking care of our neighbors.
But today we hear our Lord Jesus compare Himself to a mother hen. He longs to gather His people into His nest and warm us under His wings.
When God became man, He became a man, born of a woman. He had, after all, made the two sexes distinct in the beginning. Sewing confusion between man and woman never made up part of His mission.
But, by the same token, Christ has revealed that what is most beautiful in both man and woman reflects the infinite beauty of God.
The Lord Jesus presented God as the loving father who forgave his prodigal son. Such a kind father reflects the Almighty Father.
But the Almighty Father has even more to Him. He also shines forth in a woman’s love. Jesus declared that all generations would remember Mary Magdalen for tenderly anointing His body before His bitter Passion.
God made both man and woman to show us a glimpse of His glory. How could we close our eyes to the goodness of either sex?
Just because we don’t understand certain things about each other, doesn’t mean they aren’t good. We don’t understand everything about God, either.
“Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood… It will shed for you and for all.”
Sounds familiar, right?
Starting in a month:
Take this all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood…It will be poured out for you and for many.
If you asked Albert Pujols, ‘Do you own just one first-baseman’s glove?’ he would probably answer, ‘No. I have a few of them.’ By which he would mean: More than one.
Just like if you asked me, ‘Did you ever see the original Star Wars?’ I would say, ‘Yeah. I have seen it a few times.’ Meaning more than once and less than 55 times.
If you asked Imelda Marcos if she owned a few pairs of shoes, she would say, “Oh, many, many.”
I promise that this will be the last time I discuss the revised translation of the Missal. At least for a few days. But: We will soon encounter this change in the words of consecration, and it may prove a bit of a stunner.
Christ is one. He saves many. From one married couple of First Parents came many sinners. In the Body of Christ, one Head gathers many members to Himself: one Savior, many saved.
Everybody knows that we priests consecrate the Host and the Chalice with the words of Christ, which He spoke at the Last Supper.
When He spoke them the first time, He probably used a language called Aramaic, which was the common tongue of the Holy Land then.
When the Apostles first celebrated Mass, as the Lord had commanded them to do, in the various corners of the world to which they had journeyed, they used the common languages of the different countries, including both Greek and Latin.
In Latin, when the priest consecrates the Chalice, he says that the Blood of the new and eternal covenant is shed “for you and pro multis.”
Christ, the new Adam, the firstborn of the new creation, died not for Himself, but pro multis, for a lot more than one, “for many.”
‘For all’ will become ‘for many.’ The Blood poured out for many.
This does not mean that the Church now officially teaches that Christ died for fewer people than we used to teach that He died for. The Lord wills that all be saved. Almighty God offers the gift of salvation to all, no exceptions.
But not all accept it. Some—indeed, many—act as if a loose affiliation with God will suffice. “We ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets…My grandmother said the Rosary every day…My uncle is studying in the deacon program…I’m a die-hard Notre Dame fan…”
Evildoers, I never knew ye.
He invites all. He poured out His blood for many. He died for us. We owe Him everything.
Some of his paintings serve as bedrock leitmotifs for my entire pilgrim existence.
…But now, “New York Pavements.” Never seen, nor heard tell of it before.
What is the man trying to do to us? When you add wind; when you add off-centeredness and obscurity; when you put a child into this Hopper lens…
His other paintings enclose us in the jail-cell of modern urban solitude. But the sun shines in at the edges, or the night air has some freshness of dawn. The gauze that encloses the world is permeable.
“New York Pavements,” on the other hand, skewers us under a pitilessly overcast sky. And it’s cold. And…Why? why? my God, why do we roll perambulators down the street?
Walter Chrysler, Jr., bought “New York Pavements” in 1976. Did he buy it in order to have a Hopper in his collection? Or did he buy it because he wanted this Hopper in his collection? Did Chrysler catch the over-the-top Hopperness of this one?
…In five weeks, we will start working the famous pew-cards with the revised translation of our Mass prayers. When we do, we will discover some different words in our beloved Nicene Creed.
The first question is: Why do we recite the Creed at Mass? Any thoughts?
Right. Because this is what we believe about God Almighty. We Catholics believe specific things.
Whenever I encounter someone who says something like “Who needs organized religion?” or “Don’t we all pray to the same god anyway?” or “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual,” I experience two simultaneous reactions.
1. Thank God, I intend first and foremost to sympathize, to extend a friendly hand, to put the best possible interpretation on the other person’s point of view. After all, God indeed does transcend all the words we use to focus our minds on Him.
2. Meanwhile, though, whenever I hear such vague shibboleths about religion, I cannot help but think to myself: “Gosh. Do you have a thought in your head? How can you be satisfied with nonsensical flim-flam about God? Shouldn’t you take yourself a little more seriously?”
____________________ N.B. The Chrysler of the Chrysler Building married a Virginian. His extensive art collection did not wind up in New York, but on the bank of the Elizabeth River. What an awesome world this is!