Readings: Is 49:3,5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
The Nativity scene is gone, the lights are down and the Christmas season is over. We are already in the Ordinary Season of the Year, and this Sunday we are at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. There is one key phrase I would like to underline in this homily: the reference to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” What does that phrase mean? There is a story about a German artist who, centuries ago, was working on a Catholic Church roof in Werden, Germany (in Essen). Suddenly, his safety belt snapped and he fell. The area below was filled with large rocks. As fate would have it, a lamb chose that moment to have its lunch of grass between the rocks. How it happened, nobody knows, but the artist miraculously fell on the lamb, that died at once, but the artist survived. When he recovered from shock and some bruises, he sculptured a lamb and placed it on the church roof in gratitude. That lamb still stands there to this day.
I tell this story because it leads us to reflect on the Lamb of God who was slain to save us all. The phrase “Lamb of God”, sounds simple, yet it is a metaphor for the whole saving mystery of Christ. When John the Baptist describes Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, he draws the phrase from an Old Testament “lamb of God” symbolism. The blood of the paschal lamb in the Old Testament protected and saved the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt in Exodus 12. John the Baptist in the Gospel makes a prophetic proclamation when he identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God” whom the Prophet Isaiah also prophesied as being crushed for our sins; like a lamb led to the slaughter; the Lamb who was wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:2-3). There is no doubt that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus in his passion and death also prophetically in the symbols of bread and wine at the Last Supper. At that event, Jesus took the Jewish Passover ritual sacrifice and applied it on himself as he shared the Passover meal with his disciples. The symbolism of the lamb, the bread and the wine was later adopted by the Church as part of the order for the Eucharistic celebration. Therefore, when we use the phrase “Lamb of God” three times at Mass, we reflect on the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation.
The message we take home is twofold. 1) Like John the Baptist who recognizes Jesus and points him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God, we too are invited to get to know Jesus, so we can proclaim him to others. 2) At this Mass, when we hear “Behold the Lamb of God” before Holy Communion, let us look at Him in gratitude with deep faith and humility for what he has done to save us. Let us come humbly to receive Him at Holy Communion, and go out as the end of the Holy Mass to proclaim the Good News we have experienced today.
©2020 John S. Mbinda