In the Holy Mass, we offer the sacrifice of Christ, our priest and victim who, by His death on the cross, takes away our sins. As we say “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”
We need to understand that this is not a mere legal fiction, as though God decides to “let us off” a punishment that He has imposed without necessity. It is not as though Jesus comes into a courtroom and arbitrarily takes the place of a guilty man without doing anything else for him.
It is not simply like that because sin causes real damage which needs to be put right and repaired. Sin damages our relationship with God, weakening or destroying our friendship with Him. Sin harms our relationships with each other, being responsible for all the evils which we see or hear of every day, from the discord and difficulties we sometimes find among our families and friends, to the terrible sufferings of war and terrorism which we see recounted on the television screen.
Sin also causes damage to our own spiritual life, breaking down the sanctity which God has given us at baptism and countless times since by His many graces which are rejected in sin.
Since sin causes all these kinds of damage to us, it requires a real atonement and cannot simply we waved away. Our relationship with God must be restored: and this can only be done by Him. Our relationships with others must be healed, and we must be healed interiorly by a new infusion of grace.
This healing is brought about by Our Lord. In fact, every work that He carried out was redemptive for us because He loves us continually and infinitely. His preaching, teaching and miracles all served to bind up the wounded and make the weak whole. This love continued through all His hidden life and all of His public ministry.
By offering His life for us, Christ loved us to the uttermost. (cf. Jn 13.1) This offering was made at the last supper and completed on the wood of the cross. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, assumed our human nature and redeemed it by taking on Himself all of the damage caused by sin. We meditate on this especially when we think of the first sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, the agony in the garden.
On the cross, Our Lord’s prayer was “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” This prayer was supremely efficacious and was heard and answered. Through the pleading of Christ on the cross, our sins were forgiven and “By his wounds we are healed.” The sacrifice of Christ redeems us and reconciles us with the Father.
That is why on Good Friday we sing of the glory of the Cross as a triumph in the words of that magnificent hymn of Venantius Fortunatus “Sing my tongue the glorious battle.” In response to the magnificent and triumphant offering which Christ made to redeem us, we must live as the redeemed, washed in the blood of the lamb, singing His praise both in our words of prayer and in the deeds of our lives by which we try to preserve intact the life of grace that Christ has won for us at such cost.