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Catechism of the Catholic Church

III. CHRIST OFFERED HIMSELF TO HIS FATHER FOR OUR SINS

Christ's whole life is an offering to the Father

606 The Son of God, who came down "from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]", 413 said on coming into the world, "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God." "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." 414 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father's plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work." 415 The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world" 416 expresses his loving communion with the Father. "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life", said the Lord, "[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father." 417

607 The desire to embrace his Father's plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus' whole life, 418 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, "And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour." 419 And again, "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?" 420 From the cross, just before "It is finished", he said, "I thirst." 421

"The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world"

608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". 422 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption at the first Passover. 423 Christ's whole life expresses his mission: "to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 424

Jesus freely embraced the Father's redeeming love

609 By embracing in his human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus "loved them to the end", for "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 425 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. 426 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." 427 Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went out to his death. 428

At the Last Supper Jesus anticipated the free offering of his life

610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles "on the night he was betrayed". 429 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: "This is my body which is given for you." "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 430

611 The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice. 431 Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it. 432 By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth." 433

The agony at Gethsemani

612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father's hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani, 434 making himself "obedient unto death". Jesus prays: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. . ." 435 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death. 436 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the "Author of life", the "Living One". 437 By accepting in his human will that the Father's will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." 438

Christ's death is the unique and definitive sacrifice

613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", 439 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins". 440

614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. 441 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience. 442

Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience

615 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." 443 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who "makes himself an offering for sin," when "he bore the sin of many", and who "shall make many to be accounted righteous", for "he shall bear their iniquities". 444 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father. 445

Jesus consummates his sacrifice on the cross

616 It is love "to the end" 446 that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. 447 Now "the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died." 448 No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.

617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal salvation" 449 and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us." 450 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope." 451

Our participation in Christ's sacrifice

618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men". 452 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men. 453 He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]", 454 for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps." 455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. 456 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering. 457

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven. 458

IN BRIEF:

619 "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (I Cor 15:3).

620 Our salvation flows from God's initiative of love for us, because "he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4:10). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).

621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: "This is my body which is given for you" (Lk 22:19).

622 The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28), that is, he "loved [his own] to the end" (Jn 13:1), so that they might be "ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers" (I Pt 1:18).

623 By his loving obedience to the Father, "unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfils the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will "make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).

Notes:

413 Jn 6:38.

414 Heb 10:5-10.

415 Jn 4:34.

416 1 Jn 2:2.

417 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

418 Cf. Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.

419 Jn 12:27.

420 Jn 18:11.

421 Jn 19:30; 19:28.

422 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.

423 Isa 53:7, 12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; I Cor 5:7.

424 Mk 10:45.

425 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

426 Cf. Heb 2:10, 17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

427 Jn 10:18.

428 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

429 Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; I Cor 11:23.

430 Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. I Cor 5:7.

431 I Cor 11:25.

432 Cf. Lk 22:19.

433 Jn 17:19; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1752; 1764.

434 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.

435 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.

436 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.

437 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.

438 I Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

439 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; I Cor 5:7; I Pt 1:19.

440 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.

441 Cf. Heb 10:10.

442 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; I Jn 4:10.

443 Rom 5:19.

444 Isa 53:10-12.

445 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.

446 Jn 13:1.

447 Cf. Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25.

448 2 Cor 5:14.

449 Heb 5:9.

450 Council of Trent: DS 1529.

451 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.

452 I Tim 2:5.

453 GS 22 § 5; cf. § 2.

454 Mt 16:24.

455 I Pt 2:21.

456 Cf. Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

457 Cf. Lk 2:35.

458 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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