For all and for many

The Conundrum in 2011.

Why did Jesus have to say ‘This is my blood which will be shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.” Why didn’t he say ‘for all’, the way we have been doing for 35 years?

And then: should we Redemptorists now change our Redemptorist Motto,- (Psalm 130, verse 7)- from ‘Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio’ to ‘Quasi-Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio’- to ‘With Him there is (a kind of) Plentiful Redemption’ ?

The Words of Institution:
St. Luke has it this way, in Chapter 22:20: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.’ (Jer. Bible), or “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (NRSV).

St. Mark has it this way: ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many.’ (JB), or ‘2“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’ (NRSV).

St. Matthew has it this way: ‘…for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (JB), or 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ‘ (NRSV).

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:25 has it this way: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ (JB), or “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

The blood is shed for all. But not all receive it, not all welcome this outpouring.
Is there some part of an answer in Luke 8: 11ff?
11 – “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

The seed was the Word of God. The same Word was cast for everyone, One Word, given to all, but not all received it.

Or is there some answer in Luke 13:34 ?
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’
‘How often I desired… but you were not willing!’ Again, love ‘poured out for all’ but not all received.

We notice MATTHEW 20:28: “…just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Obviously, from his life, Jesus poured out his life for all,- but again, not all received this gift

Take ISAIAH 53, the great prophecy of the Passion of the Servant: note the ‘all’ and note the ‘many’:
4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.* When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11… The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
12…because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

So, here we have the same conundrum,- ‘the iniquity of us all’ and ‘the sin of many’.

Perhaps there is an answer- even an uncomfortable one- in the conversation with Nicodemus in John Chapter 3: There is the proclamation of the Gift, and there is the challenge to receive, to believe in the One Who was Sent, -Jesus. Read it below: (John 3:14ff.)
‘And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 – “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Is there a key in this,- that the receiving of the Gift is profoundly important also? The Sending is important, but the welcome, the ‘belief’ of the whole person, is the challenge posed by the wonderful Gift sent.
‘How often I would have gathered you… but you were not willing.’

The challenge of the gift offered to us is to begin Life again with this new Life offered, to be open to this gift,- or ‘born anew’ as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.

The other image is that of LIGHT,- the Light that came into the world, but was not accepted by many. This imagery fills the opening Chapter of John: see this passage:
JOHN 1: The Word Became Flesh
1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 – There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 – He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 – And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.’
The language is that of ‘accepting’ the light, of ‘knowing’ the One who came into the world, of ‘receiving’ him, ‘believing’ in him. It is the language of ‘RESPONSE’-ability.

‘From his fullness we have all received’. He shed his blood for ALL, but not all received him. In this sense, he shed his blood FOR MANY.

We cannot take our eyes off: ‘God so loved the WORLD’ !
Nor can we take our eyes off our need to make a human response,- to open our eyes to the gift given to us, and our lives in response,- the need for a response of ‘knowing Christ Jesus’, that is, of faith.

Perhaps the revised wording in the Eucharistic Prayers, returning to the words of Christ himself, may help us to re-discover a richer understanding, for ourselves and for those to whom we minister, of the Misterium Fidei, the mystery of faith,- the Good News that has come, ¬and the Challenge to us to respond.

‘Copiosa’ or ‘Quasi-Copiosa’ ?
The ‘Copiosa’ is God’s, the ‘Quasi’ is ours.
The Abundance is Christ’s, the Meagerness is ours.
The ‘All’ is Christ’s, the ‘Many’ is us.
In proclaiming the Mysterium Fidei, -the Good News of God in Christ,- we keep the abundance of God’s giving and our meagerness of response, together.

‘He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?’ (Romans 8:32)

Seamus Devitt, C.Ss.R.
Sept. 10, 2011.
See also

From the website of the Association of Catholic Priests


  1. Maybe it’s one of those strange Catholic paradoxes of faith?
    Son of God and Son of Mary
    One God in Three Persons
    All things are known AND free will is given
    Life from the grave
    Forgiveness from the Cross
    For many and for all.

  2. At a retreat nearly 30 years ago, as a “for all/for many” debate was going on, Eugene LaVerdiere SSS pointed out to us the evangelizing movement of the words of institution. In the rite, the bread/Body is “for you” and whether or not you hold that the text with the cup/Blood should be “all” or “many” what it really comes down to is Christ saying “remember, this isn’t JUST for you” – in other words, we shouldn’t be experiencing a Pharisaical self-satisfaction about our inclusion.
    He also put the words of institution into the broader context of Jesus’ ministry, not in terms of our receptivity, but in terms of the ever-expanding, ever-widening inclusivity of Jesus’ mission, and the continual reminders that we all were going to be surprised at who would and wouldn’t be seated at the celestial banquet.
    It seems that some (or much, or all) of the infighting going on in the ghetto of the redeemed recently is precisely the sort of thing that Jesus warned against as well.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. We have spent a lot of time and energy worrying about a specific word being used, and all the time we may not completely understand it’s meaning. ‘Many’ can be exclusionary (as in not All), and it can be inclusionary as in ‘not just for you’. To a certain extent much of the hoopla over having a ‘corrected’ translation is like a couple of Pharisees arguing a point of the law than anything else. I don’t so much object to the new translation as I do the use of the term ‘corrected’ to describe it. There is nothing to correct unless this is all theater or Hogwarts incantations that have to be said a certain way or they lose their effectiveness. I don’t think that the Masses I have participated in the last 40 years have been invalid…

      1. It always seem to stem back to making it closer to the Latin, doesn’t it?

        If Jesus spoke Latin, everyday they might have a point. But, if being close to Latin is so important, then just switch back to Latin.

        Or maybe that’s the eventual plan????

  3. In “Web Catechesis” Paul Turner explains the rationalization behind the translation of “pro multis” in the VC2010. He goes so far as to suggest that the addition of the definite article (rendering “many” to “the many”) would have been a satisfactory result even permissible under LA and RT. I am guessing that this will be a very helpful excursion from the printed text when we get to late November.

  4. Really, last summer I happened to be reading Thucydides in Greek and he complains about the ill effect “the many” had on the war effort whenever there was an impending defeat. “The many” or the poloi are held in contempt. These non-elite do not have the sang-froid, the aristocratic contempt for fear and panic. The many includes the non-elite, it includes everyone. This seems to be a cultural element in the word that is missing in translation. To say in Greek for the many is a repulsive idea to a high minded Greek in the ancient world. What good is something that is meant for everyone, for the many?

  5. I’d forgotten about the derogatory connotations of “hoi poloi” – just read the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry about it.
    Seems like the general connotation resonates with the public ministry of Jesus – and serves as another caution against any sense of exclusivity in our celebration of the eucharist.

  6. For us, the only translation that we use and is being used- is Mt.20:28 “Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(NAB). Hopefully the Irish bishops got that translation approved by the CDW. That is the only Scripture reference in the annotated version of tne Revised Order of the Mass on the USCCB website in relation to this part of the prayer. I wonder how many people in the congregation will even notice this change.

  7. I’ve got it!
    We can change many to “the riff-raff”! =)
    At any rate I shall, henceforward, think of it that way.

  8. I like the contrast: you and many i.e., not just you.

    I don’t like the contrast: Many and not all, that is only those who receive it.

    Too much of this: It all comes down to you, what you do. Yes, I am an heir of the reformation and that reformation was for something– it does NOT all come down to you.

    So you vs a lot of others yes
    Many but not all -ot so fast!

    Mark Miller

  9. Here is part of the explanation in my parish bulletin: When we hear Jesus’ words “for the many,” hopefully we
    will be reminded that we are the ones who have accepted
    God’s salvation in Christ. Nonetheless, this change was
    strongly argued against in the revision phase of the English
    translation of the New Missal. It was the decision of the
    Pope who stepped in to say that he wanted to retain the
    words of Jesus at the Institution of the Last Supper as
    related to us in Scripture.

    The Pope, really? Or the Roman curia?

    1. From the letter of Card. Arinze:

      “In July 2005 this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to all Presidents of Conferences of Bishops to ask their considered opinion regarding the translation into the various vernaculars of the expression ‘pro multis’ in the formula for the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Holy Mass. The replies received from the Bishops’ Conferences were studied by the two Congregations and a report was made to the Holy Father. At his direction, this Congregation now writes to [you] in the following terms…”

      It looks like it was both. The CDWDS and the CDF presented a report to the Pope, and the Pope made a decision based on the report and the CDWDS implemented it.

      The USCCB web site describes the scene this way:

      “After having consulted with Conferences of Bishops throughout the world, Pope Benedict XVI determined that the translation of [pro multis], presently translated [for all], will be changed in the new edition of the Roman Missal to [for many].”

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