Question

Dear Father Angelo,

I am writing to you because I need to clarify some points contained in the documents of Vatican Council II.

1. Did Jesus Christ die for All or for Many? Is Salvation for All or for Many?

Gaudium et Spes says that Grace works in all men of good will and that Christ died for all (GS 22), but in the Gospel, in the episode of the Last Supper is said that Christ’s blood is shed for many (it does not say for all) in remission of sins (Mt 26, 27-28) and that “…whoever recognizes me before men, the Son of the man will also recognize him before the Angels of God; but whoever denies me before men will be disowned before the Angels of God” (Lk 12: 8-9).

2. In Lumen Gentium (LG 16) it is written that “…the plan of salvation also embraces those who recognize the Creator, and among them in particular Muslims who, professing the faith of Abraham, adore with us one God, merciful, who will judge men on the final day”.
I have two questions about it. The Gospel (GV 14, 6) says: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.  Can someone come to God without recognizing Jesus Christ? Is Islam really an Abrahamic religion ?

Thank you very much for your patience and availability. I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas (2019).

Simone


Priest’s Answer

Dear Simone,

1. St. Thomas, commenting about Jesus’s Word: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28), emphasizes that the covenant, or First Testament, was made by God with the people of Israel (Ex 24:8). 

Nevertheless, in the Old Testament a new alliance is already announced: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31).

The new covenant will be stipulated through the blood of Christ with all mankind according to what is promised in Isaiah: “so he will sprinkle many nations” (Is 52:15).
The Italian translation says: “many nations will marvel at him”. 

St. Thomas instead uses the translation based on the Vulgate which relies on the Masoretic text that writes “sprinkle”.

2. St. Thomas also comments on the expression “the many peoples” and writes: “For many, that is for all, since if we consider sufficiency, we have that “he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2). 

However, if we consider the effect, it has no effect except on those who are saved, and this is because of men” (Commentary on Mt 26:28). 

And this is in agreement with the quotation from Lk 12, 8-9 that you have reported.

3. Moving onto your other question concerning the Second Vatican Council, it is true that “the plan of salvation also embraces those who recognize the Creator”.

St. Paul recalls that God wants all men to be saved (1 Tm 2,4).

4. The letter of the Hebrews reminds us that a minimum of faith is necessary for salvation when it says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6).

This does not indicate an explicit faith in Christ, but at least an explicit faith in the Creator and His plan of salvation.

5. Therefore, all men must possess at least this minimum of faith in order to save themselves.

Here is the reason given by St. Thomas: “Because in the divine being (Deus est) all the things we believe exist eternally in God and in which our beatitude will consist are included; and faith in providence (remunerator est) includes all the ways which God uses over time for the salvation of men” “(Summa Theologica, II-II,1,7). 

The other truths, since they do not know them through their own fault, it is sufficient that they believe them implicitly with the disposition of the soul (in dispositione animi).

6. Therefore the words of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” are valid for all men (including Muslims) in a double sense. 

First: those who are saved among non-Christian, are saved only for Jesus’s Christ merits who, with his redemption, has obtained Sanctifying Grace for them even if they do not know they possess it.

God does not deny grace to those who fulfill their duty (facienti quod in se est Deus non denegat gratiam). 

Second: they do not believe in Christ explicitly, but they do believe him in the disposition of the soul, that is, in the sense that if they were persuaded of his divinity they would certainly believe.

7. The text of Lumen Gentium does not state whether Islam is an Abrahamic religion.

However, it implies that they claim to be descendants of Abraham.

Here is the precise text: “Who (Muslims), professing to have the faith of Abraham, adore with us a single, merciful God, who will judge men on the final day” (LG 16).

You instead wrote: “professing the faith of Abraham”. 

The Latin text says: “qui fidem Abrahae se tener (to have) profitentes”.

As you can see, the official translation I brought you is the correct one. 

In yours it is sufficient to remove “to have” to support an affirmation that the Council did not make.

I reciprocate my good wishes for Christmas 2020 in the hope that when this answer is published we will not be already in 2021!

In any case I wish you well, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you. 

Father Angelo.

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