2nd Sunday of Ordinary
January 15, 2017
Saint Mary Parish,
The Beloved Lamb
There is a old story about two men who were living in the same small town.
The one man was rich and powerful; the other was poor and powerless. The rich man owned so many sheep that he lost count of them, but the poor man had only one, tiny lamb.
The poor man’s children loved this little lamb so much that they treated it like a member of the family. They played with it all day long and even brought it to the dinner table to share the little food they had to eat.
Then one day an important visitor came to the rich man’s house for dinner. The rich man wanted to serve a special meal but he didn’t want to kill any of his own lambs to feed the guest.
So, he had his servants go over to the poor man’s house, take that family’s only lamb, and slaughter it for dinner. Now, we find this story in the Hebrew Scriptures, in what we call the Old Testament.
And this story of the beloved lamb is one of the images that John the Baptist must have had in mind in today’s gospel. John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God.”
John means, “There is God’s beloved lamb.” Like the one lamb of that poor family, Jesus is God’s only beloved Son and he is unjustly put to death.
The Sacrificial Lamb
Now besides this image of the beloved lamb, there is a second image that John must have had in mind.
This is the image of the lambs that were sacrificed everyday in the Temple in Jerusalem. These lambs were seen as sacrifices to atone for sin.
So, John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus is like those sacrificial lambs because he is sacrificed for our sins.
But, he is also unlike those lambs because, as John says today, he is “the lamb of God.” Jesus is the person, the sacrifice above all others who brings us reconciliation with God.
The Victorious Lamb
Finally, John must have also had a third image in mind.
The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, pictures a victorious lamb. The author describes his vision of a lamb on a heavenly throne with people from all over the earth giving him honor and praise.
So, John speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb of God …the one who ranks ahead of me because he is before me.” John’s idea is that Jesus ranks first, above him and above everyone else in the human family.
Jesus is the Lamb and also the Son of God who rose from the dead. This is why he now receives honor and praise as God’s Son and the victorious lamb.
The Lamb of God for Us
So, John the Baptist has these three images in mind today.
As you know, before we receive communion here at Mass, we sing three times: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It is helpful to remember these three images as we sing these acclamations.
First, we remember the image of the one beloved lamb of the poor family. And so, we express our love for Jesus as the only Son and Lamb of God.
Then we remember the image of the sacrificial lamb of the Temple. And so, we offer here in the sacrifice of the Mass Jesus himself under the forms of bread and wine.