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CHRIST THE PRIEST AND VICTIM OF SACRIFICE FOR THE SALVATON OF THE WORLD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 4th Sunday of Easter, Vocations Sunday, April 26, 2015
Acts 4:8-12, Ps. 117, 1 John 3:1-2, John 10:11-18


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).


God promised that one day he himself would come to shepherd his sheep that "were scattered because there was no shepherd" (Ezek. 34:5). "For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out" (Ezek. 34:11). And moreover God promised to send David, that is, one of his lineage, to be their shepherd: "And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd" (Ezek. 34:23).


Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy. He is God himself shepherding his flock. Moreover, he is the Son of David who rules over his people forever. "And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Sam. 7:13).


But Jesus Christ is far more than just a good shepherd. He is also the lamb that is sacrificed, who gives his life for his people, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) by the sacrifice of himself. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father" (John 10:17-18).


Today is the "World Day of Prayer for Vocations" to the priesthood and religious life. Priests are ordained as shepherds and pastors, as Jesus was a shepherd and pastor, the good shepherd. They are conformed to him by their ordination and make present in the Eucharist the very sacrifice of Christ himself on the cross for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. They offer his sacrifice that saves us, together with Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit, with the whole people of God, for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.


But unlike the human priest, Christ is himself the lamb of sacrifice that redeems us by his blood shed on the cross in reparation for our sins. Christ himself is the victim that the priest offers with Christ the priest to the Father in the Mass. This one and only, once for all, unrepeatable sacrifice on the cross of Christ, the victim offered and the priest offering, is made present in the Mass and offered by the human priest so that all might intimately participate in Christ's sacrifice on the cross for their salvation.


The priest also celebrates the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23), through which the merits of Christ's sacrifice on the cross are personally and powerfully communicated to us for the forgiveness of our sins and for our justification. So we are forgiven and justified by the death of Christ that made reparation for our sins, and this justification is effected in us through our faith, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation.


Our salvation comes to us from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the lamb of sacrifice, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). As lambs were sacrificed for the sins of the people in reparation for their sins, as a substitute for the people, instead of the people themselves dying for their sins, so Christ took our sins upon himself on the cross, as a substitute for us, to be slain instead of us for our sins, to make just reparation for them by his suffering. "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). Christ was punished instead of us, although it was we who sinned, and through his suffering the peace of God comes to us, because his death reconciled us with God through our faith in him. His chastisement brought us peace through our faith in him. "The chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isa. 53:5 KJV). "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5 KJV).


Christ "himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).


"You were ransomed ... with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).


"The Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). His sacrifice of himself ransomed us.


"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28). In the Eucharist, which the priest consecrates and offers in sacrifice, we offer with Christ the priest his blood which is poured out in reparation for our sins so that we might be justly forgiven.


On the cross Christ bore our sins and suffered their punishment to make reparation for them and so justify us when we put our faith in him. "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).


Christ now intercedes for us before the Father in heaven with the blood of his sacrifice, and so we are saved, forgiven, and justified if we invoke him with faith. He entered into heaven with his own blood, which was sacrificed for us in reparation for our sins, and thus merited and earned for us our salvation. "When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:11-12). Christ "has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).


Thus by offering this sacrifice of himself, as the lamb of sacrifice, Christ propitiated the Father, at the Father's own initiative (Rom. 8:32), for our sins. Therefore "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2 NKJV). Thus he is our advocate with the Father: "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1 NKJV).


Thus, in the words of today's first reading, Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This is true, for "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). So therefore "he who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36 NKJV). This is the path of salvation given by God. Therefore it is the mission of the Church to preach this salvation through repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth unto the ends of the earth.


It is the vocation of the priest to preach to the world Jesus Christ as Savior, and to celebrate his sacraments for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. And today we pray for an increase in priestly and religious vocations for the benefit of the people of God and of the entire world.

 

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