Is 49:3, 5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
My neighboring pastor put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he confessed that they worked fine but when he went in there he saw a sign that read, “For a sample of this week’s sermon, push the button.” I hope you don’t feel that way today.
Generally before we enter into a conversation with a stranger or unknown person, we introduce ourselves, or better wait to be introduced by someone mutually known to both parties. In today’s gospel we find John the Baptist introducing Jesus to the public: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
Nick names are popular with people. I’m sure some of you are better known by your nick names. It’s given to individuals just for convenience or humor. But often a nickname is a condensed description of one’s outstanding qualities. Jesus too has some biblical nicknames. Some of them are: “The Good Shepherd”, “The Bread of Life”, “The Light of the World”, “The Son of Man”, “The Son of God”, “and Christ – the Anointed”, “The Servant of God”, “Lord” “The Lamb of God” etc. All these names have deep theological meaning.
In every Mass as we near the time for Holy Communion we call on the Lamb of God three times, twice to take away our sins and a third time to grant us peace. In response the priest raises the host and says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” What’s theological background to this prayer???
John the Baptist in today’s Gospel introduced Jesus as: “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29): For us in the 21st Century, these are rather strange words but not for Jews of Jesus times. Lambs were sacrificed daily in the temple. Even now some Hindus sacrifice animals to their deity. Concerning these daily temple offerings, God said to Moses in the book of Exodus: “Every day for all time to come, sacrifice on the altar two one year – old lambs. Sacrifice one of the lambs in the morning and the other in the evening” (Ex 29: 38-39).
The daily sacrifice in the temple was made year after year, even in times of great famine when food was scarce and people were starving. When John pointed out Jesus as Lamb of God, he had in mind the sacrificial lambs that were offered each morning and evening in the temple for the sins of the people. Jesus would offer himself as expiation for our sins once for all.
During the Hebrews’ last night in Egypt a lamb was slaughtered by each household for the Passover meal before leaving. The blood was put on the doorframes so that God would pass over their households and not harm them. Jesus, offering his blood to us, is the new Passover lamb, whose blood is shed to save us that God may pass over our sins. During every Mass Jesus says to us, “This is my Body which will be given up for you”, “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant…It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”. Jesus brings us inner peace, heals our souls, because he took all our sinfulness on himself.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we see the liturgy of heaven and Jesus in heaven is called the Lamb. So when we call Jesus the Lamb of God during Mass it reminds us that we have heaven on earth. Jesus says to us, “This is my Body which will be given up for you”, “This is the cup of my blood…It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” Happy are we who are called to his supper.
We need to live and die like the Lamb of God. (A) Live like a lamb: i) by leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives obeying the Christ’s commandment of love. ii) by appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church. iii) by eating the body and drinking the blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from his Holy Spirit through sacraments and prayers.
(B) Die like a sacrificial lamb: i) by sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community. ii) by bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering. iii) by offering our suffering for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others.