Behold the Lamb of God

Theological Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (year A)

January 16, 2011

1st Reading:  Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 2nd Reading:  1 Cor 1:1-3; Gospel: John 1:29-34

Behold the Lamb of God

Today is the second Sunday in Ordinary time. Last Sunday (the Feast of Baptism of the Lord) we began the Ordinary time, which continues until Tuesday March 8th (day before Ash Wednesday). In today’s gospel passage, John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God. What is the significance of this title? How does it affect us today?

During every Mass, before the reception of Holy Communion, we sing or say, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world”.  In the Old Testament, the sacrifice of animals to remove guilt from wrongs committed was part of the religious landscape of Israel (cf Lev 9). In the book of Exodus, we also see the sacrifice of the calf over lamb, which later formed part of the annual liturgy of the people of Israel in the Temple. The significance of the unblemished lamb was to remove people’s sins accumulated during the year. The synoptic gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) place Jesus’ crucifixion of the day of the Jewish Passover.

Notably, Jesus, after the Passover meal, instituted the Eucharist, a new covenant in which Himself replaces the ‘lamb’ of the old covenant. Thus, the New Testament writings identify the Passover lamb with Jesus (cf 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Peter 1:9). Remarkably, today’s gospel passage makes it clear that the ministry of John the Baptist was mainly to testify to Jesus. It was not about him but, rather, about Jesus. Similarly, the sole purpose of our Christian life is to testify to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is not about us.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many Christians think that is all about them. Instead of presenting Christ to the world, they keep on ‘blowing up their egos’. Instead of advertising Christ, the Lamb of God, they keep on advertising themselves. Our mission is to be a signpost like John the Baptist, who said to Israel’ “He must increase while I decrease” (John 3:30). The purpose of our Christian faith is to proclaim Christ to the entire world just like the apostles did. Living our Christian life means leaving our old selves to sin and picking up His life completely.  It means saying every day, “Here I am Lord, and I come to do your will” (Psalm 40:8-9). It means showing God’s salvation to every nation (cf Is 49:6).  It means bringing the light of God to the darkness of human hearts. It means bringing the salt of Christianity to the bitterness of human experience so the name of God can be praised (cf Matt 5:14-16).

Today there is a movement called Jehovah’s Witness. They are found in most cities of the world. At times we criticize them for what they do and for what they stand for but, I think there is something to learn from them. What do they do? They go in groups of three or four or even six, knocking on the doors preaching or testifying to the Kingdom of God.  They talk about God; they testify to the power of God, it is not about them. And, that is exactly our mission; to testify to Jesus as He commands us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Act 1:8). Peter, in his public speech, restated this point; “And He (Jesus) commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that He is the one who God has appointed Judge of the living and the dead (Acts11: 42). I am not advocating that every Catholic should go and stand in the middle of the road preaching, but we have to start from somewhere. Catholics are generally complacent to testify either by word or action; we are too timid to talk about Jesus even at family gatherings. We are too shy to pray, either at home or in the restaurant, and we are always concerned about being politically correct. Then, how do we testify to Jesus? By our words and actions people should know that we are Disciples of Christ. We cannot sit on the fence; we have to proclaim Him with our enthusiasm, with our strength, and with all our gifts.

May this liturgy strengthen us in our mission to testify to Jesus, not only in words, but also with our daily lives.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

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