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SPANISH VERSION »
JESUS CHRIST SACRIFICED TO REDEEM US
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 13, 2014
Isa. 50:4-7, Ps. 21, Phil. 2:6-11, Matt. 26:14 27 66


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matt. 26:27-28).


Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered triumphantly into the Holy City of Jerusalem to give his life for the salvation of the world. Today we hear the account of his passion and death on the cross. Christ is the lamb of sacrifice for the propitiation and expiation of our sins, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He took our part as our lamb of sacrifice and was slain instead of us in punishment for our sins. He substituted for us in suffering instead of us our punishment due for our sins. His death expiated our sins, and we are freed from them and forgiven when we put our faith in him.


Christ is our scapegoat who bears our sins away from us, as did the live goat on the Day of Atonement, upon whose head Aaron confessed the sins of the people to carry them away into the desert. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them on the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land; and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness" (Lev. 16:21-22).


Christ is our scapegoat who bore our sins upon himself to free us from them. He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) by bearing it upon himself and expiating it in his death. His sacrifice of himself made reparation for our sins that satisfied divine justice. The scapegoat and the other Old Testament sacrifices for sin were types or prefigurations of the one and only effective sacrifice of Christ on the cross, "for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). Only the sacrifice of the Son of God can do that. But when the Israelites confessed their sins, putting their faith in the Messiah who was to come, who was represented for them by the scapegoat or lamb of sacrifice, God passed over their sins ahead of time through the merits of Christ's death on the cross.


So when the true Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross, we were redeemed by his blood poured out in propitiation for us. "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake" (1 Pet. 1:18-20). Christ is this lamb. "He 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). "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18).


Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law for having sinned by becoming cursed himself instead of us, suffering the curse of the law against sin in our place to free us from it. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Thus he satisfied the law for us, the law that says that the sinner must suffer and die for his sins. "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do; sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3-4). Our sins were condemned and punished by God in Christ's flesh instead of in our flesh. So God put our sins on him and condemned and punished them in him to fulfill the law that they should be condemned and punished; and the law being thus fulfilled for us by the death of Christ, we are set free when we believe 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).


In this way "the chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isa. 53:5 KJV). Christ bore our just chastisement for our sins so that God could justly forgive us and give us his peace in our heart. "The chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isa. 53:5 KJV). "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6 KJV). He bore our sins. "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11 KJV). He bore our iniquities and suffered for them, in just punishment for them. Thus we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:24-25 KJV). We are justified through Christ's sacrifice that made propitiation for us.


It is, therefore, the blood of Christ poured out in sacrifice on the cross that redeems us. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7). Christ "loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood" (Rev. 1:5). "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). "Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). The blood of goats and bulls was a type or prefiguration of this. But "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14).

 

It is "Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age" (Gal. 1:4).  It is "Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own" (Titus 2:14). It is "Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:6). "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). At the Last Supper Jesus said over the wine, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28).


The one sacrifice of Christ made propitiation for all the sins of the world, and they are expiated by this sacrifice for all who put their faith in him. Christ "has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). "By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).


This is the one and only, once for all, unrepeatable propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of the world that is made present for us in the Sacrifice of the Mass, which we offer with Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. The benefits of this sacrifice are made especially available to us in a powerful and deeply experiential way in the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23; Matt. 18:18), which personally applies to us the saving merits of the death of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

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