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JESUS CHRIST, OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 30th Sunday of the Year, October 28, 2012
Jer. 31:7-9, Ps. 125, Heb. 5:1-6, Mark 10:46-52


"Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Heb. 5:1).


Jesus Christ is our great high priest who offers sacrifice for sins to expiate them. He is the Son of David, the promised descendent of David who would have a kingdom of peace on earth without end (Isa. 9:7), "and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:33). He is the Son of Man whose "dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:14). He is the beloved Son of God, the servant of the Lord, with whom the Father is well pleased (Mark 1:11), who will redeem his people through his suffering and death. About him Isaiah said: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed ... And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:4-6).


Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us for the remission of our sins. "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3) to expiate them with his death. His death on the cross made perfect reparation and satisfaction for all the sins of the world. And this is applied to us personally when we believe in him. This is the good news of the New Testament. This is the gospel. This is the heart of what we preach when we evangelize. This is our message as Christians. And this is what we now need to rediscover and put at the very center of our preaching in the New Evangelization. In a word, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of David, the Messiah, the Son of Man, and the Suffering Servant of the Lord, died on the cross to save us from our sins.


In doing this Christ is our great high priest offering the sacrifice of himself on the altar of the cross for the salvation of the world. He is the Savior of the world and our great high priest who saved us by the sacrifice of himself. But he is not only our priest but also the lamb of sacrifice, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He was offered as a lamb of sacrifice bearing our sins on the wood of the cross, dying in punishment for them instead of us. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). He was both priest and victim, doing this as our high priest offering sacrifice for our sins. He offered his own body for our sins. Christ "gave himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:4). He "gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph. 5:2). "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). Thus "he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). God "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). He is the one "whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness" (Rom. 3:25).


He is "a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). He is the victim of sacrifice as well as our high priest, because "for our sake he [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is the victim offered to God in place of us, dying instead of us in punishment for our sins, thus taking upon himself the curse of the law for sin, which is death. Hence in his blood our sins are expiated and forgiven. Therefore "in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7). Hence "now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). This is the "blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28).


Jesus is "crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one" (Heb. 2:9). He tasted death for everyone so that "through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15). Death was the punishment for our sins (Gen. 2:17), and Christ came to taste death instead of us to free us from this punishment, bearing our sins (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24) and suffering their punishment (1 Pet. 2:24). This punishment-death-is the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 8:3-4), which Christ suffered instead of us (Gal. 3:13). Thus we are freed from guilt, which is the death of the spirit; and we are freed from eternal death for our sins by his suffering death instead of us; and our death is transformed into a gateway of eternal life.


By his death Jesus Christ is our great high priest, the great intermediary between God and us. "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant" (Heb. 9:15). The law required the death of the sinner for his sins (Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23). The death of Christ on the cross substituted for our death for the forgiveness of our sins-"since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions" (Heb. 9:15). Christ made this reconciliation between us and God, "making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20). Hence "you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him" (Col. 1:21-22). Thus "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God [will] purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14).


As our high priest the Son of Man "came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). He gave his life as a ransom for many on the cross, suffering for our sins instead of us. Hence "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). "When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).


Truly Christ is our great high priest who saves us from our sins, justifies us, and makes us righteous, holy, and resplendent before God by the sacrifice of himself on the cross. This is the gospel that the Church preaches, the content of our evangelization, our message. We all need to be forgiven for our sins and made righteous before God. The death of Christ is the means that God uses to do this for us. We need to rediscover this in the New Evangelization and make it central to our preaching. This is the liberating message of the gospel: Christ saved us by his death on the cross. This is then personally applied to us through faith.

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