Last Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of Epiphany. Jesus manifested himself to the Magi as saviour of humanity and the light of the world. This Sunday’s Gospel continues with the same theme of manifestation. John introduces Jesus by saying: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
The lamb with all its innocence
What’s John telling us about Jesus? And when we use these same words at mass, what do we profess? What’s the implication of our partaking of the “Lamb of God” in the Eucharist?
Double meaning of the lamb
We find reference to the lamb in Isaiah 53 regarding the Suffering Servant: “…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter….” The suffering servant is the just one who suffers unjustly; he suffers in place of his brothers. Hence, the lamb is the symbol of innocence and non-violence. But there is also another meaning.
There’s also allusion to the pascal lamb. Before leaving Egypt the people of Israel slaughtered the lamb whose blood they smeared on the doorposts of their houses that served as identification, thereby saving them from the slaughter of their firstborn son which the Egyptian families suffered. They also ate the meat as source of strength for the journey.
Hence, the lamb is the sign of liberation. It signifies total self-giving for the sake of others. That’s why for expiation of sins Jews offered, among other things, a lamb as sin offering. When someone sinned it’s the animal that died in place of the sinner. Is there a better symbol for Christ than that of the Lamb of God?
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world….”
At mass we acknowledge Jesus as one who liberates us by taking upon himself our sins. He’s the innocent one who steps forward to rescue us from sin and death. In Jesus is accomplished the obedience of the suffering servant totally available: “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will” (Ps 39). It’s no longer the animal that dies to expiate the sins but Jesus himself who’s an eternal offering for entire humanity. And so when we pray at mass: “…Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world….” we affirm the bounty of God who, through his son, comes to the rescue of sinful humanity. The Lamb is also a pascal meal that strengthens us on our pilgrimage.
Confessing Jesus as Lamb of God should be accompanied by an attitude of openness to welcome Jesus who comes to relieve us. We ought to recognise the burden of sin that weighs on us and robes us of peace. The question therefore is, am I ready to be helped? It’s important for each one to identity the burden they want to surrender to Jesus, the Lamb of God.
But we are more than beneficiaries, we have a mission
We have a part to play in order to actualise and perpetuate God’s salvation destined to all. God is looking for messengers of his mercy. Many are the persons around us who shoulder burdens of different forms in their lives: victims of injustice, the lonely, the sick, and those who lack necessities of life, to mention but just some. All these people are dear to God and he wants to be close to them; he intends to liberate them. And that’s possible through us. Am I ready to step forward and respond generously: here I’m Lord I want to witness your love and mercy? Or is my agenda too full that I can hardly spare a minute for others?
Giving oneself for others can be quite frightening especially when we are to face our own fragility and poverty. We struggle to meet our own needs to the next month; we face the diminishing energy because of sickness or old age and many other loads that we may be shouldering. So, we hesitate to say, send me Lord.
However, it’s important to be aware that it’s not our heroism or abundance that the Lord is looking for but rather our availability. So, it’s not the grandeur of my act that counts but the generosity, the humanity and the love that permeate my little gestures of service to those in need. Besides, we are not alone. In the Eucharist we are nourished and strengthened so that in turn we too may nourish and strengthen others.
Imitating the Lamb of God
In short, Jesus, the Lamb of God, is here to relieve us from sin and everything that holds us slaves. Once liberated and strengthened, we are called to look around and see those burdened in various ways and harry to their relief.
In conclusion, I leave you with a little story by Charles Peguy, a French writer and poet.
A man arrives in heaven and meets an angel at the door who asks him: ‘Show me your wounds’. The man answers: ‘My wounds? I haven’t got any!’ Then the angel says to him, "do you mean you never found anything worth fighting for?’
I ought to ask myself too: of all that’s happening around me, and in the world, have I found something for which I’m ready to step forward and say, yes Lord, here I’m send me?
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