Of all the sentences in the entire lexicon of the liturgy, surely one of the most profound and powerfully packed is the one which is composed of these twenty-three words In Eucharistic Prayer A:
He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
As shared in an earlier post, the first phrase of that sentence, about Jesus’ outstretched arms on a cross, just hit me to my core one Sunday morning in a fresh and paradoxical way, leaving me breathless.
A similar stunning epiphany was granted to me somehow not long ago, at a time when I was struggliing especially hard with the wicked whispers in my brain, leaving me riddled with all manner of aimless doubt. Desperately seeking some goals I really desired, and even more desperately seeking God’s guidance for them, I was finding only that God seemed nowhere to be found. To say I was feeling broken on that morning would not have explained the half of it.
In this state of brokenness, a message of wholeness somehow broke through.
For the umpteen-thousand previous times I had heard the words “…for the whole world” I had understood that Jesus’ sacrifice was for the entire planet. Christ was crucified, once for ALL. The feast at this Eucharistic table is for EVERYONE.
But on this particular morning, what came to me when I heard that phrase “for the whole world” was something wholly different; a new message in a wholly deeper context.
Jesus’ “perfect sacrifice” is not just about the numbers, the entirety of humanity before and since and ever to be. This ultimate offering “for the whole world” is about the world’s WHOLENESS, so that humankind might obtain completeness and a sense of one-ness — both with our Creator and each other. And this “whole world” is not just for a “macro” vision, that all nations and races and religions be united as one creation of God’s family, but also, and maybe more important, from a “micro” standpoint, Jesus took the cross upon himself so that EACH person, as a child of Our Creator, might obtain an intimate wholeness, a sense of unity and completeness within.
And the gift went further. The words “…a perfect sacrifice for the whole world” meant to me on that particular morning that Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s boy and the carpenter’s son, made the conscious choice to take upon himself the nails and crown of thorns in order to be a perfect offering, not just for the salvation of humanity and all beings to ever roam this celestial speck of dust, but that Jesus did this for ME. It was so that MY foibles and frustrations and other fragments of brokenness might be made whole, that Jesus gave this absolute ransom.
It was an astounding thought.