The Reading of the Passion - The Cross of Atonement
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
During this weekend's Palm Sunday Mass (recorded Saturday in our lovely and intimate Day Chapel), Fr. Arje spoke about The Cross. Specifically, Fr. Arje talked about how The Cross (Crucifixion and death of Christ Jesus) is what wipes away our sin and frees us to a life seeking peace and justice.
The Cross is according to Fr. Arje, "How Jesus saved us. How Jesus became one of us...Jesus, in His sufferings, felt like one of us...He felt real pain...Jesus knows what we go through...Jesus knows our heart aches and our pains." Fr. Arje is saying, in effect, that Jesus, not just through His incarnate birth but also through The Cross, became one of us. Additionally, Fr. Arje spoke on how, "That Cross, right there, is not meant to scare us," as some kind of warning against sin, but instead, "That (it) is a symbol of our salvation...a challenge to change..." It is a reminder of for what we are saved.
The Cross is our salvation. Jesus is our Savior.
What does that mean?
The Cross of Christ Jesus is The Atonement of Sin.
Atonement: noun: atonement; plural noun: atonements
1. reparation for a wrong or injury. "she wanted to make atonement for her husband's behavior"
2. (in religious contexts) reparation or expiation for sin. "an annual ceremony of confession and atonement for sin"
3. CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. noun: Atonement; noun: the Atonement
Origin - early 16th century (denoting unity or reconciliation, especially between God and man): from at one + -ment, influenced by medieval Latin adunamentum ‘unity’, and earlier onement from an obsolete verb one ‘to unite’.
Similar: reparation compensation recompense payment repayment redress restitution indemnity indemnification expiation penance redemption amends requital solatium
Did you get all that? Oh good. Now you understand how The Cross of Christ Jesus saves you from sin and hell. Right? No...Oh...
Nope. Doesn't make sense. I sin. He dies (horribly). I go to heaven. Hmmm...
So let's see if I can break this down for you Barney style.
First, I need to take you all the way back to The Garden of Eden. God created human man and human woman to be in perfect relationship with Him. The first premise you need to understand is that the creator of the universe, of all that is beautiful, good, true and right, made you so that He (best described in the Bible as Love) can have a relationship with you.
Sin breaks the relationship. That which we do that fails to respect God's desire subsequently breaks that relationship. Original Sin is basically the fact that ALL of us have done and will do SOMETHING that breaks that perfect relationship with God.
AND EVER SINCE DAY ONE, GOD STARTED DOING THINGS FOR US TO FIX THE RELATIONSHIP.
And for a time, our relationship with God would be fixed. But you guessed it! We'd then go break it again, and again, and again. The whole Bible is one story after another of God mending our broken relationship with Him, and us breaking it again.
Classic case of humanity saying to God, "Listen...It's not you. It's me."
So, God created The Commandments. A simple set of rules for humans to follow so that we'd know what would break our relationship with God and to avoid it. THERE WERE ONLY TEN!!! I mean, come on! But we, much like the Pirates of the Caribbean decided to take them only as "guidelines."
So then God gave us The Law. Sort of an expanded set of rules. 633 last time I counted. But um...633 rules? That's a game worse than Yu-gi-oh.
And yes, we broke those, too.
Then God gave us Judges, and then Kings, and then Prophets, and Priests, and whole books of WISDOM to follow. All designed to fix the relationship for us, and help keep us on track.
And yep. Broke. Those. Too.
Put in our hands to maintain the relationship, humans were ALWAYS going to mess it up, so God took the RESPONSIBILITY for the relationship out of our hands, and He put it in the hands of Jesus. Jesus' everything, His perfect sinless life, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection, His ascension into Heaven...all of it is an ATONEMENT reconciling us with God...and that atonement cannot be broken...because Jesus did it! Jesus is us, and Jesus is God. Jesus is our reconciliation made complete. We can't mess that up.
Ever since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His followers have been discussing WHAT this meant. St. Paul writes in Romans that we humans broke The Law (rules for righteous living under God) that God set forth for us to follow. As he believes obvious, Paul writes that those who follow the law PERFECTLY are therefore perfectly JUSTIFIED by The Law. Those people basically have nothing to worry about related to their relationship, but as you should now understand, no one perfectly follows The Law. So, instead of being JUSTIFIED by The Law, we are CONDEMNED by it.
Condemned to what? Separation from God, I think, is the best way to describe it. And if God is Love, peace, justice, joy, all things that are good and perfect and true...well, you should get the point.
Following Jesus Christ, placing ourselves under His protection, His perfect sinless life, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection, His ascension into Heaven...it saves us from that separation, from our sin, from our failure to be able to maintain the relationship.
That is why Fr. Arje points to The Cross, not as a warning, but as a reminder. For as St. Paul also writes later in Romans, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Next up: More ways to talk of Atonement. And boy, are you gonna' love them. Expiation, Propitiation, and Christus Victor...Oh my!!