Apparently the whole issue of atonement is up for debate... some Catholic sources say Jesus bore God's wrath for our sins. He was punished & "became" sin. Others say that's heresy & still others say there are at least 4 other ways to look at it. Either way, atonement is something I took for granted when I came in to the Church. I really didn't give it a second thought. Jesus died for me, He rose & now I'm free. Becoming a Catholic didn't change that. It was just an extra bonus.
As I was looking for answers, combing through apologetic websites & writing down scriptures to check out, the Passover came to mind. And what does the Passover have to do with Jesus' death? The Old Testament recounts how a lamb was slaughtered in each Jewish household, its blood was put on the doorposts & the people inside that house were kept safe when the angel of death passed over. The blood of a slaughtered Lamb saved us from death too.
I'm reminded of how Abraham made Isaac carry the wood for the burnt offering. When Isaac noticed they didn't have anything to sacrifice, Abraham simply said “God will provide”. And He did. Jesus was God's provision for us.
In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Passover Lamb. In the Mass, we remember His sacrifice. We say “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us... grant us peace". And He did.
I finally turned off my computer & sat down to read Hebrews. I came to understand that God didn't indiscriminately punish Jesus with the wrath He had reserved for us. That would be unjust. Jesus was sinless, without spot or blemish. He was innocent. Instead, Jesus chose to give Himself up for us. He bore our sins of His own free will in order to satisfy God's requirement for justice. That changes everything. Justice demanded blood be shed for sins and Jesus was the perfect, sinless sacrifice for us all. His body was prepared for Him for just that purpose and He knew it. He may not have been thrilled about it (as we saw Him in agonizing in the garden), but as an eternal high Priest, Jesus, from the Cross, approached God on our behalf & was obedient unto death. As He shed His Blood, the veil of both the physical & spiritual temple was rent (I picture it like a contract being torn in two). Now we can have peace with God. Jesus didn't come to be punished for our sins. He came to show us God's love.
For God so loved the world,
that He gave...