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THE SAVIOR WHO FREES US FROM DEATH
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, the Presentation of the Lord, February 02, 2015
Heb. 2:14-18, Ps. 23, Luke 2:22-40


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"In all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful High Priest in the things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (hilaskethai) for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17 NKJV).


Today the child Jesus is presented in the temple and offered to God. And today Simeon receives him and blesses God for having seen God's salvation before he dies. He recognizes the child Jesus as "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32).


Truly, Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) who came so "that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). He is offered today to his Father in the temple; and this is an anticipation of his offering of himself in sacrifice to God on the cross, where he destroyed the power of the devil. By dying as a condemned criminal on a Roman cross he destroyed the kingdom of the devil. For this he came into the world, to be our Savior who saves us from death.


Death entered the world though sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12; 6:23) as the punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23). Christ was sent into the world to make propitiation for sin, thus expiating it and thereby destroying the kingdom of death, enabling the souls of the Old Testament saints to leave that kingdom and enter into heaven and enjoy the fullness of life in the light with God forever. Christ came "to make propitiation (hilaskesthai) for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17 NKJV) through his death and so conquer the one who reigns over the dead, namely, the devil. He came "that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14).


Christ's death did this because it made reparation for the sins of the world. In this way divine justice was satisfied, because our sins were punished in him instead of in us (Rom. 8:3-4; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:6, 5; 1 Pet. 2:24). This is how he made propitiation for our sins that expiated them. This having been done, the Old Testament saints in the kingdom of the dead were set free and entered into heaven. And his death frees us who are now living from the fear of death, for we now know that if we die in the Lord we will enter into the fullness of life with God in heaven (John 11:25-26), where "we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Indeed, Christ came to "deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb. 2:15).


Jesus Christ, who was today presented and offered in the temple, came into the world to do this for us, to be our Savior from death, and to vanquish Satan and death itself. He did this by offering himself unto death, even death on a cross, as a sacrifice for sins. He "died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). His death substituted for our death for our sins, thus freeing us both from our sins and from the punishment of death for them. Because of his sacrifice, through our faith in him, when we die we can enter into heaven with God. This is how Christ transformed our physical death into a gateway into eternal life. He also destroyed our eternal death in hell for our sins, as well as our spiritual death, which is our separation from God for having sinned against him. The power of the death of Christ is especially communicated to us through baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23).

 

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