Sunday, January 16, 2011; 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
What do John the Baptist and I have in common?
No, not the camel hair coat. I’ll never be that stylish. Not the locust and wild honey diet. I do like honey but I can’t find a steady supply of locusts in these parts. And You know I don’t give hell-fire sermons.
But John the Baptist and I do both call attention to the Lamb of God, and in the same words!
I say it because John said it. At the elevation of the consecrated bread and wine, which at Christ’s command and by His power have become … Himself, present, the priest repeats from Scripture those words of the Baptist. So those words are familiar to Mass-going Catholics. But what did the bystanders think of it when John first said it? Did it sound strange to call a man a lamb? And how does a gentle innocent lamb do something as mighty as take away the sins of the world?
The bystanders too would have been familiar with the symbol of the lamb, and its rule in taking away sin.
For instance, they all celebrated Passover, when they would sacrifice and eat a lamb in remembrance of that original Passover lamb whose blood on the door posts delivered their ancestors from the death of the first born in Egypt. At the Last Supper Jesus applied that symbol to Himself. As the perfect Passover lamb sacrificed for us He is the proof of God’s love, God’s good intention to save, if they will have it, the whole human race. In Christ humanity is redeemed. We need not fear God. After Christ, salvation is ours to lose.
Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world by canceling our debt and expiating our guilt.
There’s another lamb mentioned in Scripture that takes away sin – the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah.
Christians recognize in this a prophesy of the sufferings of Christ. On the cross he not only redeemed the human race in general but also forgave personal sins specifically. He asked the Father to forgive those executing Him because of their ignorance; He promised paradise to the repentant thief.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by forgiving you, and me, our own personal sins.
And there is the Lamb who shows up in the Book of Revelation:
Christ who, because he suffered death, has the right to open the seven seals and enact the final stages of God’s plan (Ch. 5);
Christ the lamb who stands with the 144,000 on Mount Zion, those who have won the victory over sin and death and now rejoice in the presence of the Almighty (Ch. 14);
Christ the lamb who conquers the beast and the ten kings allied with it for he is Lord of lords and King of kings (Ch. 17);
Christ the lamb whose death won a beautiful bride, the Church, envisioned as a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. The lamb is the city’s temple, its light, the keeper of the book of life which admits or turns away from its gates. There is no more death or mourning, wailing or pain for the old order has passed away, the old order disfigured by sin. Cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol worshippers and deceivers of every sort have all been cast into the pool of fire which is the second death, death complete and permanent. (Ch. 21)
Yes they too had been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, they too would have been forgiven and admitted into the New Jerusalem, but they clung unrepentant to the evil they embraced and went with it into annihilation.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by finally separating the weeds from the wheat, purging creation of evil, vindicating the good.
Happy are those who are called to His supper, called to share in the Eucharist which proclaims the redemption of mankind, forgives us each our sins, and anticipates the heavenly banquet where all God’s saints will rejoice with Christ in the life that never ends.
Happy, blessed, grateful are we who are called to the supper of the lamb.
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