Jesus Christ the righteous…he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
The Easter Season is a privileged time of liturgical catechesis called mystagogy because it draws into the Mystery of Christ, a reality that is the foundation of our hope and the reality that illuminates our entire earthly pilgrimage, including the enigma of suffering and death (Pope Benedict XVI). This is the Mystery that we celebrate with great care and solemnity every year, the Paschal Mystery; and this Mystery is the source of our renewal and of our life in Christ. As the word mystery is used in the New Testament, it signifies an object of revelation. In other words, it is not something that we could come to know without God revealing it. St Peter’s sermon quoted in our First Reading speaks of this mystery as foretold though all the prophets (Acts 3:17), though evidently misunderstood and even rejected. The Mystery of course, is Christ Our Lord and the content of this Mystery is summarised for us by the Apostle John in our Second Reading: Jesus Christ the righteous…he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
The word that Saint John uses to describe the sacrifice of our Lord is atoning. Atonement is a concept which explains how Our Lord achieved our salvation and it is absolutely essential to have an understanding of this concept if we wish to understand our Christian faith. The expiation of our sins and our reconciliation with God is atonement, namely at-one-ment or bringing together. In Himself Christ Our Lord brings together divinity and humanity and what had been lost through the devil’s deception is restored by Our Lord’s atoning sacrifice. An ancient Easter homily (attributed to St. John Chrysostom) speaks of the Paschal Mystery in a manner that may help us to understand how to make this Mystery our very own and grow in its knowledge and power. Christ, the sacrifice that was offered for us, is the father of the world to come. He puts an end to our former life, and through the regenerating waters of baptism in which we imitate his death and resurrection, he gives us the beginning of a new life. The knowledge that Christ is the Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us should make us regard the moment of his immolation as the beginning of our lives. As far as we are concerned, Christ’s immolation on our behalf takes place when we become aware of this grace and understand the life conferred on us by this sacrifice (The Liturgy of the Hours, p. 645).