The Lamb of God

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 19, 2014

We begin the Sundays in Ordinary Time with this account 
from the Gospel of John of the occasion when John the
Baptist points out Jesus and identifies him as the Lamb of  God.

The first thing we should realise is that according to the Law of Moses a lamb was sacrificed each morning and evening in the Temple for the sins of the people. Also on the feast of Passover each family sacrificed a lamb and eat its meat in a sacrificial meal.

This meal called to mind the meal the People of Israel eat on the night of the first Passover when they were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt. There is a strong connection with sin, since sin is a form of slavery and is definitely something that we need rescuing from.

So when John the Baptist said ‘Look there is the Lamb of God’ the people would have had understood that he was making an explicit link with the hundreds of lambs sacrificed for sin in the Temple and also the many more lambs sacrificed on the night of the Passover Feast.

John is pointing out that Jesus is the one who is coming to free the people from their sins.

Of course, all those lambs sacrificed in the Temple did not actually free the people from any actual sins. Only God can forgive sin and so it had to be God who seeing the sacrifices that were being offered exercised his mercy and forgave the people their sins.

But, as we know now, all these lambs were merely foreshadowing Jesus who is the real Lamb of God and who by his sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary would really and definitively expunge all our sins past, present and future.

It is no mistake then that the death of Jesus occurred at Passover time. Nor was it any surprise that at the moment of his death the veil of the Temple was torn in two as a sign that from then on men should turn to Christ and see him as their one true Saviour.

We begin these Sundays of Ordinary Time right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry but we do so with an eye on the end of the story. We see from the outset that Jesus is the Lamb of God and that his principal task is to take away the sins of the world. This is the reason he has come among us, this is his true purpose, this is something in which the whole world can rejoice.

In the text John says twice that he did not know Jesus. We have to take this with a pinch of salt. We know from the accounts in St Luke’s Gospel that John the Baptist certainly knew Jesus indeed that he was his cousin and only six months older. So we cannot and should not take these words of St John literally.

According to me, what John the Baptist means is that he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. John instantly recognises who Jesus is when he walks towards him on that glorious day. He already knew he was Jesus of Nazareth but at that particular moment he had a revelation or an inner recognition that Jesus was the one who had come from God to save us from our sins.

He then does the thing that he was destined to do, the one thing that for his whole life he had been preparing, he identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. So important is this incident that the Church explicitly refers to it every time we celebrate the Eucharist when the priest holds up the host and the chalice and says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.’

Christianity is a historical religion, we deal in real and actual historical events, real physical people situated in a particular time or place. This is not so with other religions that rely heavily on myth and allegories.

The events in the Gospel reading today actually happened, On that blessed day Jesus walked towards John who recognised him and proclaimed to the crowd just who Jesus was.

This is specific, it is real, it actually happened. And Christians down through the ages return over and over again to the specific events of the life of Christ to learn more about him and also to learn how to live out the beliefs and tenets of Christianity in their own day.

This is what Paul is on about in his letters, such as the one given to us today written to the Corinthians; he wants them to come to a realisation of what is required of a Christian who is living in another place or another era than that of Christ himself.

That our religion is based on actual facts on specific occurrences and real people living in history tells us that the events of our everyday life are vitally important. Ours is not an otherworldly religion; it is not based on myths and legends. No, it is historical and factual and it is all about the real world in which we live.

As Christians we regard time itself as sacred; we are living in what we might call redeemed time, because of our salvation all time has been made holy. We commemorate this through the sacred liturgy which marks time off with its recurring feasts and seasons.

The liturgy helps us to realise that the time in which we live is sacred and blessed because it is the place in which we live out our Christian lives, it is the milieu in which we work through our struggles with evil and by the frequent use of the sacraments come ever closer to God.

Moreover, what happens to us each day is part of the unfolding history of Christianity. The challenges we face, the threats to our faith and how we overcome them, all these things are part of a much wider picture which is that of the growth of the reign of Christ in the world.

Like Paul we too are called to be Apostles, to be Christ’s servants in the world in which we live. Like John the Baptist it is our task too to point out to those around us just who Jesus is.

It is not sufficient that the people among who we live know that a man called Jesus lived his life two thousand years ago. No, they need to be aware that he is indeed the Lamb of God, the one true Saviour of the World.

This is our task; this is the role we have been given by Christ –to make him known. And we are to convey not just that he existed but precisely who he is, that he is the Son of God, that he is our Saviour, that he loves us and wants us to live with him for all eternity in heaven.

This is indeed Good News and it deserves to be heard by every single person in the world.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 19, 2014

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 1: 29-34
Gospel Summary
These verses are the climactic conclusion of the prologue to the gospel according to John (1: 1-34). In the prologue John establishes the basic themes that will unfold in the ensuing drama of his gospel: Jesus, the Word from the beginning lives with God, is God. The Word became human and made his dwelling in our world of sin; those who accept Jesus become children of God and are at home in God.

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Lamb of God
The poinsettias are gone, the lights are down, the Christmas season is over.  Now we move on with the very beginning of Jesus’ public life, usually referred to as his ministry.  We come upon John the Baptist seeing Jesus and pointing to him.  “This is the Lamb of God”, he says. 

“Lamb of God.”  We use that term so often, that it is easy for us to overlook the deep theology and the tremendous love of our God contained in his sending his Son to be the Lamb.

Jesus – Lamb of God?
The Protestant Church is all about the Bible; the Catholic Church is all about the Sacraments.  Right?

Not exactly.  When it comes to personal Bible reading, Protestants often put Catholics to shame.  But as far as Sunday worship goes, it is hard to find a more biblical service than the Mass. The readings are awesome enough, but even the prayers of the Mass are chock full of Scripture.  Many lines spoken by priest and people are, in fact, direct quotes from the Bible.  Consider, for example, what the priest says just before communion: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  That’s a direct quote from John 1:29 where John the Baptist says this as he points out Jesus to his disciples.

Why Goodness Depends on God
One of the most common observations made by opponents of religion is that we don’t need God in order to have a coherent and integral morality. Atheists and agnostics are extremely sensitive to the charge that the rejection of God will conduce automatically to moral chaos. Consequently, they argue that a robust sense of ethics can be grounded in the consensus of the human community over time or in the intuitions and sensibilities of decent people.

Are Catholics “Born Again”?
My mother was Catholic and my father Baptist. My mother was firmly committed, as was my father after serious and prayerful consideration, to raise their children Catholic and baptize us at infancy. Years later I met non-Catholic Christians who would invariably ask me if I had been saved and if I was born again. Of course, the question perplexed me at first, but I had the great advantage of a Baptist father who could explain to me the nature and meaning of their question. Because of his study of the Catholic faith, he was also able to provide a positive explanation consistent with Church teaching.

Fear of the Lord Gives Us the Desire Not to Offend God
As we saw last time, fear of the Lord is ordered toward Christian hope, and hope is linked with suffering as Christ the Son, not Christ the slave, suffered. “We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).

Truth Cannot Contradict Truth
As I mentioned last time in this space, it’s a strange time to be alive when an explanation of St. Thomas’ argument for the existence of God is attacked—by Catholics—as an assault on the Faith. But that is what I frequently found during the Natural Revelation discussion in November. On the central question—whether God exists and is Creator—I agree with the ID guys and not with atheists.

You are Enough
As in seasons past, our recent Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations are now only distant memories.  The weather remains quite frigid and winter has not yet let go of its grip. But even if the days remain dark, we know that spring is ever closer and the sun will shine brighter with each coming day. Many of us are settling into our routines for the year with work, school, and family life.

Pope to Parents: ‘Hand on the Faith’
VATICAN CITY — During his homily at Sunday Mass Jan. 12 at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis reminded parents who had brought their infants to be baptized of their duty to pass on the faith to their children.

“Today, carry this thought home with you: We must be transmitters of the faith. Think of this, think always of how to hand on the faith to [your] children,” he told the families who were gathered for Mass in the Sistine Chapel.

What we can learn about suffering in the story of Joseph, the Patriarch
One of the greatest and most painful of mysteries is the problem of suffering and the broader problem of evil in the world. I was meditating with my Sunday School parents this past weekend on the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph. That story is rich with lessons about family struggles, envy, jealousy, pride, mercy and forgiveness. But the story also has a lot to say about suffering and the way that God can use it to bring blessings.

How To Be A Biblical Literalist
“Part of being a Biblical literalist is recognizing that Jesus meant what He said when He gave the Church the authority to teach in His name, and to bind and loose sins. Knowing that the Church has this authority means that we don’t, and shouldn’t, use our own interpretation of the Bible as our sole and final authority.”

What did the Gospel writers know?
Some biblical scholars are too quick to say that, because a particular Gospel doesn’t include a given story or saying of Jesus, the Evangelist who wrote it must not have known about it.


What would cause a person to think this?

The Two Most Important Questions in Life
There are two questions most people avoid. The questions are: “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?”  They are such penetrating questions that vast numbers of people spend their lives going to great lengths to avoid them.Questions call for answers and these two questions pierce to the core of who and what a person is (or is not). They will expose a person’s spiritual state and their humanity (or lack of it). The questions can be unpleasant, threatening and make a person feel uncomfortable. They can spark internal crisis.

What Popes Can and Can’t Do
A good friend habitually refers to the Wall Street Journal as his “favorite Catholic newspaper”—a bit of whimsy not without foundation, given the openness of the Journal’s op-ed pages to serious Catholic argument on numerous issues. But just as Homer occasionally nods, so does America’s best newspaper. And on Jan. 2, the Journal nodded, big-time, in this description of why Pope Francis was one of the “People to Watch” in 2014:


‘Trendies and Traddies’
The Good Shepherd carries a staff to help him herd the sheep. With the crook at the top, he can reach out to rescue the fallen, and with the point at the bottom, he can prod the sheep if necessary to keep them in line.

It is no mistake, therefore, when one blogger described Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) as “the shepherd prodding the flock.” One commenter complained that the Pope was “a scold.”

Does God Love the Poor More than the Rich?
I have a friend named Trish who frequently corners me after Mass to ask questions about things she finds baffling about Scripture or Catholic teaching. Her questions range from the mundane – “Why, if Mary remained a virgin, does Scripture refer to the ‘brothers and sisters’ of Jesus?” – to the sublime – “How can it be that Jesus is both human and divine?” Why Trish brings her questions to me, I’m not sure, but I always try to reward her curiosity by patiently providing as full an answer as I can.

Notes on Mark: Hell
I have noticed that it is very common today that moral assessments seem to center quite a lot around the intentions and feelings of the person involved. What is actually being done seems less significant and as long as a person “means well” or feels something is right then it is OK for them and we should make no further moral discernment. It is enough for too many that the person feels the act is right and means well.

Getting Your Act Together
During a recent coffee meeting with a friend, he said, “You seem to have your act together on the fatherhood front. What’s your secret?” I was taken aback because I don’t think I have my act together at all. I don’t mean that out of false humility. I pray every day to be a better husband and father because I know all of the areas where I fall short. Before I could answer my friend, he received a call on his cell phone and had to run. The topic, however, stayed on my mind throughout the day.

How to Go to Confession
: I admit I have not been to confession in many years and am no longer sure I know how to properly avail myself of the sacrament. Would you please review how one should go to confession?

What No One Told Me about Catholicism
There are things no one tells you when you convert to Catholicism: that six-year-olds will know prayers you don’t; that you’re supposed to end every statement about a future contingent with “God willing”; and that you will feel the irrepressible urge to genuflect before leaving a room where something important has happened.

What Is Your Middle Schooler Being Taught About the Crusades?
Yesterday, something interesting happened: my daughter asked me to print out her 7th grade Social Studies homework, which was a lesson on the Crusades. Coincidentally, I was teaching the same subject that evening, and what I saw in my daughter’s lessons drove home the absolutely necessity of Catholics telling our own story and teaching our own history.

I’ve been teaching Church history to 8th Grade Confirmation candidates for 6 years, and I’ve developed a series of history lessons that are taught to multiple classes each year. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the controversies of our history in order to better teach them to the students. I never whitewash it. I tell my student, “We have not always been as good as we should have been, but we have never been as bad as our enemies have said.” The truth is usually in the middle of two extreme views.

God and Morality


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