daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, 15th Week of the Year, July 19, 2019
Exodus 12:37-42, Psalm 135, Matthew 12:14-21



Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Select lambs for yourselves according to your families and kill the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you. You shall observe this rite as an ordinance for you and your sons for ever’” (Exodus 12:21-24)



Jesus instituted the Eucharist at a passover meal, which recalls how God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt and from the plague of the death of the firstborn by the blood of the paschal lamb. Jesus is the new passover lamb, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the blood of the passover lamb saved the Israelites in Egypt from the plague of the death of the firstborn, so the blood of the new paschal lamb, the Lamb of God, who is the new lamb of sacrifice, frees us from eternal death in hell for our sins, because it makes just reparation for the sins of the whole world. We know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the paschal lamb, for the Scriptures tell us, “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).



Everyone who sins must be punished by an all-just God, but since God is also all merciful, he wants to save us from the consequences of his own justice. The problem is that if God simply forgave repentant sinners without punishing them with eternal death, he would no longer be all just; and if he sent us to hell for our sins when we die, he would not be all merciful. But God is both all just and all merciful. So he is stymied, because he can’t act mercifully towards us without violating his perfect justice, nor can he act justly with us without violating his perfect mercy.





So how did God get himself out of this problem?  He designed for us a plan of salvation, whereby he would give us his own Son as our substitute to take our sins upon himself and suffer their punishment for us. He did this by suffering and dying on the cross for the sins of the world. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Therefore, according to God’s plan, on the cross Christ “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” (Isaiah 53:5). God did this because “we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). So Christ, the divine-human Son of God, suffered our death sentence for our sins for us.



Therefore when we put our faith in Christ, God sees that our debt of suffering and death for our sins has already been paid in full by his suffering and death in substitutionary punishment for our sins. God regards Christ’s suffering as the suffering that the human race owes God for their sins. So when we put our faith in Christ, God credits our personal account with his suffering and death as paying our debt with God of suffering and death for our sins. Therefore, when we make an act of faith in Christ, God acquits us of our sins and declares us righteous. And if it is God himself who declares us righteous, then we are righteous indeed, not merely with our own human righteousness of our good works, but with the righteousness of Christ himself, which God reckons to us (Romans 4:22-24).



This makes us “new men” (Ephesians 4:22-24) and transforms our life. This is a real experience for all who approach Christ with faith, as they repent of their sins. The result is that we now feel clean, forgiven, and resplendent, with Christ’s own righteousness shining within us.   God pronounces us “not guilty,” and so we feel liberated from our debt of suffering as punishment for our sins that we couldn’t pay ourselves, and we are greatly relieved to know that God will not vindictively punish us anymore for our past sins, precisely because that punishment has already been suffered for us for our sins by the Son of God himself on the cross, since he is the substitute that God gave us to free us and absolve us from our sins.



So now God is able to be both all just in fully punishing every sin on the earth (in punishing his Son on the cross) and also all merciful in forgiving every sin of everyone on earth that repents and puts his faith in Christ. God does not punish us twice, once in Christ’s flesh on the cross (Romans 8:3-4) and then again in our own flesh. So instead of fearfully looking forward to our death and to the terrible punishment for the sins of our past life that will follow our death, we are now freed from that fear, and live in hopeful expectation of a new and much better life with God when we die than we now have.



The Mass is a sacrifice. It is called the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” because in the Mass the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is made present for us so that we might offer it together with Christ to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, for the honor and glory of God and the salvation of the world.



But, as I noted, the first Mass, instituted at the Last Supper, took place during a passover meal that Jesus was eating with his twelve apostles. At the end of the passover meal there is a communion banquet, which followed many Jewish sacrifices, where they ate the flesh of the victim offered, whose sacrifice had saved them from death. They continued to celebrate this passover meal throughout history as a living memorial of how God saved them from death in Egypt.



As the passover meal is the memorial of how God saved the Israelites from death, so the Mass is the memorial of how God saves us from eternal death in hell for our sins by the sacrifice of the new passover lamb, Jesus Christ, whose blood shed on the cross satisfied divine justice for our sins. God’s justice is thus propitiated, since its just demands have been satisfied in the flesh of the Son of God on the cross (Romans 8:3-4). On the cross our sins were justly punished in Jesus’ flesh, instead of being punished in us. Indeed “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” (Isaiah 53:5).



It is because of our sins that God, in his mercy, smote Christ, our substitute, for our sins, instead of smiting us for them, for “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Indeed, “it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring” (Isaiah 53:10).



“The doctrine of vicarious atonement is the unique characteristic of this prophecy” (note on Isaiah 53 in the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version). The blood of the passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn, but the blood of Christ, the new Lamb of God, saves us from eternal death in hell as the just punishment for our sins, since he suffered our death sentence for our sins for us on the cross, as our substitute, instead of us suffering eternal death in hell for our sins.



God thus regards Christ’s death on the cross as paying our debt of eternal death in hell for our sins, because Christ is no ordinary man, but the divine Son of God; and so God regards his sacrificial suffering and death, which only lasted one day, as the equivalent of the eternal suffering in hell of the entire human race for their sins.



As the passover meal was the communion banquet of the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, in which the Jews ate the flesh of the victim, whose sacrifice saved their nation from death, so the second part of the Mass is a communion banquet in which we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the victim of sacrifice, namely the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for the life of our spirit.



Holy Communion is our heavenly spiritual nourishment by which Christ himself enters sacramentally into our body and spirit in the form of bread and wine, which is the sacramentalized human body and blood of Christ that contains his divine person and divine nature. In Holy Communion we eat Christ in the form of bread and wine and thereby he enters into us for our transformation and divinization. By divinization I mean that God makes us ever more like himself. This happens because we have the Son of God sacramentally present within us.



After Holy Communion, devout Catholics spend some time in thanksgiving for what they have received and now have within them. Strict monks celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass early in the morning and remain the whole morning in silence in the presence of God as they do their silent morning work. This should be a model for us, to spend at least some silent time in communion with God after receiving Holy Communion.



If one is living a consecrated life as a priest or religious, he or she will often have the privileged opportunity of remaining in silence the entire morning, in which they can engage in silent spiritual work, such as researching and writing sermons. When doing this, one has the sweetness of the Lord Jesus Christ within his heart, and this nourishes and energizes him to do his spiritual work.



I personally have been spending my mornings in this way for the past eleven years, and it has indeed been a great blessing for me. It is my hope that many other priests and religious, who have this liberty of silent time in the morning, might begin to do the same. This would surely renew religious orders and societies for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world.



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