When the Baptizer caught sight of Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
I have asked students if they know who the Lamb of God is. They do not. Even though the phrase is used often during Mass – including four times before Communion – it has not registered.
In an attempt to give them some help, I ask if they know what a lamb is. They have heard of it, but are a bit unsure. So I explain it is one of the smaller farm animals which has quite tasty meat and, when it comes to maturity, produces wool which can be used to make Pendleton Shirts. Ah, yes, they say, like a sheep. Exactly. A lamb is a young sheep.
My experience with students – and adults – has made me realize we can take little for granted when talking about the Bible. An important word in the Scriptures is “lamb.” Besides being practical for their meat and wool, they represented gentleness, purity and innocence. (cf. Jer 11:19; Is 11:6, 53:7, etc.) Perhaps because of those qualities, people symbolically placed their sins on the animal and offered it to God as a sacrifice. On their greatest feast, the Passover, they selected a male lamb who would be butchered, roasted whole and eaten in memory of their escape from Egyptian slavery.
So, when John greeted his cousin as the Lamb of God, he was saying a lot. Similar to a small sheep, Jesus came humble, innocent of sin and allowed himself to be slaughtered to take away our wrongs. Moreover, like the lamb, he became food for us.
Some might object to representing Jesus as a lamb. They prefer a more majestic animal, such as the lion. True, he is the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5) for whom we should have a healthy respect and awe.* However, Jesus himself prefers the lamb depiction. Why? For the same reason he came a few weeks back as a tiny baby. He does not want us to be afraid of God.
Many hold back from God because they carry a burden of shame. They say that if they entered the church, the roof would cave in. Well, Holy Family Church has stood here for almost fifty years and folks more miserable than you have walked through these doors. Our roof has a few leaks, but it has not fallen down.
Do not allow guilt to create an ever-widening breach between you and Jesus. He desires to do something incredible for you – to take your shame upon himself.
All of us have had been blamed for something we did not do. Sometimes – if the accusation seems ridiculous – we react with amusement. But most of the time it makes us sad, or even outraged. However, on rare occasions, we have let it go because we care about the other person. To save him from embarrassment, we swallow some of our pride. Jesus wishes to do that for each soul. He speaks words which would choke you or me, “I accept the blame.” He does it not out of indulgence or masochism, but because it is our only hope. He is the Lamb who takes human guilt upon himself.
The greatest thing you can do for a friend is invite him to come Jesus as he is. A church near us has a sign: “Be fishers of men. You catch them and we will clean them.” Of course, they are using the word “clean” in the sense of removing stains and odors. That is what Jesus does for us.
As John said, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
*Those who love the Narnia tales will understand I intend no slight on C.S. Lewis’ greatest literary invention, the Lion Aslan who represents Christ. However, it is interesting that, when Aslan gets close to the borders of our world, he shows himself as a lamb.
From Archives (Homilies for Peter & Paul):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Bulletin (Peter Kreeft on Prayer, 29th Anniversary Roe v. Wade, Marriage)
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Seattle Pilgrimage to Rome, June 7-13, 2010 Year of the Priest
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru