Passion Sunday 22.3.15 The perfect sacrifice
People of every age and culture have felt the need to offer some sort of atonement for their sins.
It is something written in our nature, to want to set right what we have made wrong. This is what is operative when we are troubled by our consciences.
False religions had only a dim view of God and of sin.
The Jews of Old Testament times had finally the right God and mostly the right idea of sin, but they were still restricted as to how they could set things right.
They offered sacrifice to God but the sacrifices did not have the power to cleanse from sin.
God accepted them at the time (when they were offered with sincerity) but He was preparing to give them (and later generations) a much more effective sacrifice.
God would give Himself as the sacrifice to be offered back to Himself! God the Son would offer Himself as Victim and God the Father would accept the sacrifice.
Finally the human race had found a way to set things right. The Blood of Christ would cleanse from sin all who participate in this perfect sacrifice.
We owe a debt to God for the sins we have committed, a debt we could never repay by anything we possess.
But the blood of the Lamb is precious and infinitely valuable. If we offer that Blood we can please God more than our sins displease Him.
We offer Christ to the Father but also Christ takes us to the Father: Father, look upon X or Y; be pleased with him/her as you are pleased with Me.
This cannot, however, be merely a ritual action. We must join to the action the appropriate contrition of heart and mind. We must be sincerely sorry for our sins and desire to be set free from them;
Free as to guilt; and free as to not being addicted to them.
This is what is meant by being cleansed. We are clean all the way to the inside.
It is hard for us to shake off habits of sin and wrong ways of thinking we have picked up over the years.
But it can be done, and each Mass should help. It is at Mass most of all that we enter into the perfect sacrifice. We are not perfect but what we sacrifice is. That perfection will rub off on us and yield at least an improvement.
Christ’s own attitude inspires us. We are not used to seeing that sort of generosity.
How many people would die for you, or pay your debts? We are moved by His generosity not just as an inspiring idea, but as we commune with Him we take on some of what He has.
We ourselves become more generous, more loving, more able to make sacrifices for others.
We come to see things differently; we are no longer slaves to sin. Distorted ways of thinking are set straight.
This happens especially at Mass. When we participate in Mass we need to enter the experience as something vitally concerning us. We are not just spectators of an event which is off somewhere else.
It is easy to miss all of this. Not to see our sins; not to see the Mass as more than a ritual; not to see that only through the Blood of Christ can we be saved.
The vast number of Catholics who do not attend Mass indicate how dimly these things are understood. If people really knew what happened at each Mass they would be breaking down the door to get in.
For us who do attend, may we also understand, and each of us enter more fully into the perfect sacrifice – offered for our own sins and those of the whole world.