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Complete What is Lacking in the Sufferings of Christ
Nina Heereman  — December 29, 2022

Completing what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ
Dr. Nina Heereman, SSD
Associate Professor of Sacred Scriptures/Chair of Sacred Scriptures
December 29, 2022
Lacking in Christ’s afflictions

Col. 1:24.  I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.


How can the above be reconciled with:
There is only one mediator.

1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human.

His one sacrifice is effective forever.

Heb. 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The instrument of our redemption is His body:

Col. 1:22    He has now reconciled (us) in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—

His body includes all those incorporated through baptism

1Cor. 12:27   Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


Gal. 2:20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


The martyrs partake of His sacrifice. They are one with Jesus under the altar of sacrifice.

Rev. 6:9   When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;


How is it possible for our sufferings to be united to His since He died 2000 years ago?
Answer: Because He incorporates us into His body in Baptism and in the Eucharist!
In baptism, our identification with Christ becomes a reality. We are His Body.


2 Cor 5:14   For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.


Romans 6:3-4   Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.


Col 2:12-14  When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.


1 Cor 12:13, 27   For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


Rom. 6:5   For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.



Gal. 2:20   It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Re-lived in the Eucharist. “Remembrance”

1 Cor 11:24-26   When he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes


For the Jews, “Remembrance” meant not just bringing to memory but actually living the event in the present. This is how they celebrate Passover, the exodus from Egypt. 
Through the Eucharist, Christ´s risen body continues to atone for our sins and we atone as one with Him. Participation in atonement.
Thus, the importance of partaking in the Eucharist worthily.

1Cor. 11:27   Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.


1Cor. 10:16    The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?


Christ’s atoning sacrifice: Four types from the OT taken up in NT applied to Christ: 


(1) Atoning sacrifice: 

Romans 3:25   Whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement (or: place of atonement) by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;


1 John 2:2   He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.


 (2) Blood of the Covenant

Ex. 24:3   Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”


Jer. 31:31   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. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 


(3) Paschal lamb

Celebrated by Jews every year. Taken up many times in NT

Cf:  John 1:29,36; 19:36. 


(4) Suffering Servant

Is 53:10    Yet 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.


What the four have in common:  A Blood rite.


In NT, the priest is also the victim: Christ. His offers His own blood.
God provides the means of atonement

Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.


Leviticus 1:4-5; 16:15-16.  You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. 5 The bull shall be slaughtered before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.


Lev. 16:15   He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.  16 Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins; and so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which remains with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.


The German Bible scholar, Hartmut Gese, explains:
The act of atonement is not to be thought of as a transfer of sins with the subsequent execution of the one bearing the sins, the sacrificial animal. In that case, there would be only a substitution that excludes one party; instead, in cultic atonement, the sacrifice of the victim’s life is a substitution that includes the one bringing the sacrifice. Moreover, the giving up of life is not simply an act of destruction. The animal is not killed in order to bring about a destruction of the sinful object or to achieve appropriate punishment of the one who is guilty of the sin, but rather a holy ritual of blood is performed. The animal is taken to the sanctuary of God, where it comes into contact with what is holy. Cultic atonement, thus is not accomplished merely by the death of the sacrifice, but in the commitment of life to what is holy, in contact with holiness. In the inclusive substitution by means of atoning sacrifice, this ritual brings Israel into contact with God. The new, positive aspect of atonement finds its expression in the blood rites.
St. Albertus Magnus, in de mysterio missae, explains the different meanings of the priest’s greeting at the beginning of the offering, “the Lord be with you.” He explains: 
Therefore, on this account of sanctification, the celebrant says: “The Lord is with you,” turning to the people. “The Lord,” I say, “is with you,” so that you may be offered as a sacrifice to God. … The Lord is with you, so that you may be incorporated into the sacrificial offering. For the Lord is with you when you offer yourselves to him and he accepts you, when he incorporates you into his sacrifice, when he makes you one and unites you.
And he says, “Let us pray,” because a great and efficacious and pure prayer is required in order that the people may be incorporated into the body of Christ and offered to God. For prayer is the pious affection of the mind directed towards God, and the people to be offered to the Lord must first be lifted up to him with all their affection, so that they may become a sacrifice worthy of God.
Afterward, in the common memory of the living “Memento Domine,” it is subjoined: “and all those gathered here before you,” and who are already offering themselves as a sacrifice, as they themselves are offering the sacrifice, that they themselves may be offered to you in union with the sacrifice. [As St. Paul writes in] Rom 12:1: “I beseech you, brethren, through the mercy of God, that you may present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable submission.”
Novus Ordo (Eucharistic prayer IV): “Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church, and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.” 
Finally, St. Albert comments on the command to receive the body of Christ: 
And eat of it, all of you”: (you my) disciples, so that you may all be incorporated into me and know my spirit: for otherwise you cannot be offered to God the Father.
In Blessed Conchita, “the aspect of oblation acquires an intrinsically Eucharistic connotation; in offering herself, Conchita would not only be assimilated to the Incarnate Word, but would be transformed into Him by means of compenetration and union with the Divine Essence, in order to be one with Christ (cf. Jn 17:20-21). That is why, by the realization of a sort of transubstantiation into Jesus, Conchita could truly say: “This is My Body, this is My Blood,” because she no longer lived her own life, but the life of Christ, who lived in her (cf. Gal 2:20).
Allow me to end with the prayer of one who has walked the talk, the Vietnamese Redemptorist brother, mystic and martyr, Marcel Van: 
Oh Jesus! You died through love, and now you are still greedy for sufferings in the heart of the one you love. I offer my heart to you without regret, to welcome with you dishonour and sadness, to fall with you on the way, to support the multitude of men and lift up the sinful soul, to atone for, with you, the sins which do not cease to accumulate each day. Yes, I wish to mingle a little of my blood with the blood of your divine Heart, for the purification of souls.
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