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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year A

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year A
Theme: Behold the Lamb of God
Author: Uwakwe Chibuike

In the first reading (Is. 49:3, 5-6), the Prophet Isaiah through the prophecy of the “Suffering Servant” gives to the Israelite captives in Babylon a message of hope. This prophecy was meant to encourage them to remain steadfast in faith until the arrival of the One who will raise the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel. This servant would be a light to the nations that the salvation of God might reach the ends of the earth. To achieve this, the suffering servant has to suffer and crush himself for those he has been sent to redeem. In Christ Jesus, we see the perfect fulfillment of this suffering servant. Sent by God to redeem mankind through the great sacrifice of the Cross, Jesus allowed himself to be dragged like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter (cf. Is. 53:7), where he slaughtered himself for our redemption. That was why in the gospel reading (John 1:29-34) when John saw Christ coming, he exclaimed “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

By pointing out to Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, John the Baptist reveals the identity and mission of Christ. Before Christ, lambs were special animals usually slaughtered in the temple for the remission of sins. Christ appeared not as a lamb or one of those lambs but as “THE LAMB” indicating a definite identity and as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” indicating a divine mission. Thus, the identity of Christ becomes that of an innocent victim and his mission is to be sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins. As an innocent victim, Christ was prefigured in the Abrahamic sacrifice at Mount Moriah (cf. Gen. 22:1-19). In him, we find the true son of Abraham who is going to be sacrificed as an innocent victim with the wood he himself has carried and his blood would seal the covenant between God and man. 

In the Old Testament we can find other places where Christ was prefigured in a lamb. We may recall the use of the paschal Lamb in Exodus chapter 12 whose blood was smeared on the doorposts of the Israelites to mark them as the chosen people of God and prevent the death of their firstborn sons. John therefore presented Christ as the real Paschal Lamb who will be slaughtered and have his blood smeared on our souls to identify us as the chosen people of God and prevent us from spiritual death. We also recall that in the Jewish liturgy, every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of the people (cf. Ex. 29-38-42). These lambs provided by men were incapable of obtaining complete pardon for the people. By identifying Christ as the Lamb of God, John presents Christ as the Lamb provided by God Himself, who would be sacrificed once and for all for the sins of all mankind and his sacrifice would be sufficient and final. 

As Christians, our baptism incorporates us into the family of God marked by the blood of the Lamb. This blood smeared on our souls identifies us as the New Israel called to love and serve God in others. It is for this reason that we have been called to become apostles of Christ as St. Paul tells us in the second reading (1 Cor. 1:1-3). For our sake, this Lamb continues to sacrifice himself daily on our altars bringing us divine forgiveness, renewal, reconciliation, healing, favours and protection. On our altars, this Lamb is sacrificed in an unbloody manner unlike the sacrifice of the cross. How well and how often do we participate in this great sacrifice? Do we recognize Jesus in the sacrifice of the mass? In every mass, the priest invites us to behold the Lamb of God, what lessons do we learn when we behold him? Have we learnt how to sacrifice our passions and desires for the will of God? Have we learnt how to embrace suffering for our spiritual good? Have we learnt to point out to Jesus by the testimony of our lives? It is only when we learn to do these, that we can prove to the world that we truly know Jesus as the Lamb of God. As you enjoy your Sunday, may the blood of this Lamb continue to wash you clean and grant you protection in the coming week. Happy Sunday. God loves you.

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