Bottom line: If we have in our hearts anything like the Jewish people - or the peoples of America - we would thrill to hear John's exclamation: Behold the Lamb of God.
At the beginning of Advent we received a beautiful gift: the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Many of my priest friends - especially the younger ones - have commented on how much they appreciate this new translation.
One of the parts I particularly like is the invitation to Communion. The priest holds up the Host and says, "Behold the Lamb of God..." We hear these same words in today's Gospel. John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims to Andrew, "Behold the Lamb of God."
To understand John's exclamation we need to know some of the Old Testament background. Each year the Jewish priests led a lamb - a year-old male lamb with no blemish - to the high altar. They placed the gentle animal's head on the stone and with knife opened its throat. The lamb's blood flowed on the altar. The priest took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the people. It brought forgiveness of sins.
When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, he was saying a lot. Jesus is gentle and like a lamb, submissive to the will of his Father. In obedience to his Father, he would offer his life on the altar of the cross. He would make a sacrifice so complete that it would not need repitition. As the letter to the Hebrews says, it would be "once and for all."
It is interesting how people in many different places have anticipated the sacrifice of Jesus. I am writing this homily in Peru where I have had a chance to see some of the magnificent Inca culture. They built their great monuments around temples - places where they offered sacrifices of animals and cereals. To offer sacrifice is a natural part of religions everywhere.
Jesus brings to perfection the sacrifices, not only of the Jewish people, but of all who recognize the need for a divine power. If we have in our hearts anything like the Jewish people - or the peoples of America - we would thrill to hear John's exclamation: Behold the Lamb of God.
From the Archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
40th Anniversary Celebration
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