20 January: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Isaiah 49:3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
At the beginning of our journey through the ordinary time of the Year, the readings raise the question of the identity of Jesus. Who is Jesus? John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah did what God had wanted him to do. On seeing Jesus for the first time coming towards him in the river Jordan, he pointed out Jesus to his own disciples: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” What exactly did John have in mind when he said that? This phrase is familiar since it is used several times at Mass. In the Gloria we sing, “Lamb of God, Son of the Father.” After the sign of peace we sing three times: “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Before Holy Communion, the celebrant says, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his Supper.” Therefore we use the phrase “Lamb of God” so often that it is easy to miss its deeper meaning.
The idea of the Lamb of God that John the Baptist uses to describe Jesus comes from two different sources in the Scriptures. The first source is Isaiah 53 that speaks of the suffering Servant of the Lord who “was pierced for our offences, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. He was wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities. He has taken upon himself the chastisement that makes us whole.”(Isaiah 53:2-3) The second source is the Jewish Passover ritual sacrifice in which spring lambs were offered in commemoration of the original Passover on the eve of the Exodus (cf. Exodus 12 and 13). That was the ritual that Jesus used at the Last Supper with his disciples. “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in memory of me’. In the same way he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’”(1 Cor. 11:23-25). The symbolism of the lamb, the bread and the wine was later adopted by the church as part of the order for the Eucharist. When we use the phrase “Lamb of God” at Mass, may we do so with deeper conviction, expressing our gratitude for what God has done for us in offering his own Son Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our sins and rose, so that we may have eternal life. The message of this Sunday could be summed up in two points: 1) The readings invite us share our faith with others; to point out Jesus to those who may be waiting for someone to lead them to Christ. 2) Just as John’s witness was so convincing that two of his disciples followed Jesus, we too are called to give such convincing witness that leads people to Jesus whom they are seeking sometimes in a confused way.
©2008 John M. Mbinda