Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pope Blessed John Paul II and Universalism, Part Four


Now, let’s take a look at Pope John Paul II’s homily of June 1, 1985.  Here it is as it appeared in Scott’s original post:

"The Eucharist is the sacrament of the convenant of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the convenant which is eternal. This is the covenant which embraces all. This Blood reaches all and saves all."

I could not find this homily online except on some anti-Catholic websites that only quote this portion of the homily.  It is in Italian on the Vatican website.  I used Google Translate to translate it into English, so bear this in mind.  Here is the passage as translated:

The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the covenant, which is eternal.
This is the covenant that everyone understands. This blood reaches all and saves all.

Yes, on the surface it may seem as if John Paul is embracing Universalism, but it must be taken out of the context of the homily to be seen that way.  However, even with just this part of the homily taken out of context, my version says that it is the “covenant that everyone understands”  (Questa è l’alleanza che tutti comprende.) not “This is the covenant which embraces all.” From what little Latin I know, my Google Translate translation seems to be a better one.  Now, really does everyone understand the Eucharist?  Is it a slight hyperbole here or perhaps it pertains to his target audience--the Catholic faithful at a Catholic Mass?  He is speaking a homily at a Catholic Mass.  Everyone at the Mass would understand what he was talking about, to the extend any Catholic understands the greatest mystery of our Faith--the Eucharist.

Blessed John Paul II gave this homily, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, June 6, 1985, at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.  He begins the homily in reminding those at Mass of the New Covenant—the Blood of Jesus Christ (Mk 14: 24).   He also says that the Lateran “has become the upper room of the Church of Rome”.[i]  He reviews what happened in the upper room and repeats the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ (Mk 14:22-24).[ii]  He relates the New Covenant to the Old Covenant with its blood sacrifices.[iii]  He talks about the mediator and high priest of the New Covenant, Christ.[iv] 

He goes on to say, “The Sacrament of the Body and Blood is the Sacrament of the street, of the path along which man goes to his eternal destiny in God Himself.  The way that the life immersed in temporality of life that passes [away] brings us to eternal life.”[v]  Bl. John Paul sees the Eucharist as accessible to anyone to come to Christ in faith.  “…the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the street [and] the path along which we [are] guided to the God of the Covenant.”[vi]

In paragraph 6, we see a clue to what John Paul says in paragraph 7 (quoted in the original post).  He said, “We wish to testify in the middle [midst?] of our community, and we want to say to all men: the way of Man is the way of eternal life.”  He is saying that the Eucharist is available to all, and that the only way to eternal life is "the way of Man"--one of Jesus Christ's titles is 'Son of Man' making it obvious to me at least that "the way of Man" is the way of Jesus Christ.  This has been the constant teaching of the Church; the Eucharist is the center of worship. 

Even if we use the translation from the original post, we can break it down this way:

The Eucharist is the sacrament of the convenant [sic] of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the convenant which is eternal.

 The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is eternal.  If we believe Christ is God, another constant doctrine of the Church, He is eternal.  Though His Incarnation was bound in time, the Son of God is not bound by those limits.  The Sacrament takes on the eternity of the One of Whom it consists—Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  This covenant, as all of God's covenants are, is eternal.

This is the covenant which embraces all.

Jesus Christ did intend the covenant to be for all men.  After all He did commission the Twelve to, “Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  So, the covenant does embrace all.  Bl. John Paul cannot be construed to mean that this covenant saves all.  But, let’s go on to the last statement:

This Blood reaches all and saves all.

It may seem that John Paul is stating that the Eucharistic covenant saves all--every human being who ever lived.  However, in the context of this homily, he is stating that the Blood reaches all and saves all but not in the context of  universality.  He is preaching to Catholics.  It is to them that "this Blood" reaches and saves.  It is the Church’s mission to bring the Sacrament and the Covenant to all--each and every one.  It cannot reach all if it is not brought.  It cannot save all if it is not consumed (I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread will live forever "(Jn 6: 51)).[vii] 

Again, is this the “covenant everyone understands?”  Few Catholics understand it; we cannot expect the entire world to understand it.  It is reading too much into John Paul’s words to say that he meant that the Eucharist would save the entire human race, despite their sin, their creed, or their lack of belief in the Eucharist.

In conclusion, it is definitely a misconception to believe that Pope John Paul II’s statements about each man being related to Christ in the Incarnation (and redemption) meant that he was supportive of Universalism.  In addition, his homily on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ was certainly not supportive of it either.  These statements were taken out of their context(s).  It was argued that appearances can affect how we see the cause for sainthood for this holy man, Bl. John Paul II.  However, it is equally, perhaps even more so, true that just because something is repeated in the media or, in this case, online, doesn’t make it so.  The charge of Universalism is completely false. 


[i] John Paul II, Liturgy of the Eucharist in Piazza San Giovanni Lateran, Homily, 1.  That room, the place of the Last Supper, is called the Upper Room. Each year the Church in Rome meets at his cathedral, the Basilica of the Lateran, to celebrate the memorial of the Last Supper: Holy Thursday. This place has become the upper room of the Church of Rome.”  Translated by Cathmom5 using Google Translate, Sept. 20, 2012.
[ii] Ibid., 2.  Even today we are in this place. We are all here, to renew the memory of the sacrament through which Jesus gave to mankind his body and his blood as food and drink.  This year we renew the memory of the institution of the Eucharist, reading the Gospel according to Mark.” [Translated by Cathmom5 using Google Translate.]  He goes on to quote Mark 14:22-24.
[iii] Ibid., 3.  Referencing Exodus 24:7-8.
[iv] Ibid., 4. “ In the Upper Room in Jerusalem Christ is manifested mediator of the new covenant, he "who with his own blood" must go "once for all into the sanctuary. . . thus securing an eternal redemption "(Heb 9: 12). The mediator of the new covenant.  The high priest of good things to come. Christ, "who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse. . . conscience from dead works to serve the living God "(Heb 9: 14)….”
[v] Ibid., 5.
[vi] Ibid., 6.
[vii] Ibid., 6.

1 comment:

  1. Well, without seeing more context of this quote - and based on the fact that you could not find the full sermon in English, I have reason to question it.  Again though, your defense of the quote seems reliant upon other sources - which I agree, we cannot dismiss.  I would like to see if I/we can find this full sermon in English.  I do have a problem with the statement that "His blood reaches all and saves all." 

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