for Sunday, January 19, 2020
You come to Church today and you notice right away that the Christmas decorations are gone. You know where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are, don't you? No, they're not in Egypt. They're in boxes in storage.
Some of our poinsettias remain. They, particularly the red flowers, are a good reminder that the One we celebrate on Christmas gave his blood for us. As the old priest would repeat in his one line Christmas homily: "The Wood of the Manger is the Wood of the Cross."
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 unfathomable love of our God contained in His sending His Son to be the Lamb.
The first place we come upon the concept of the Lamb of God is in the 53rd chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Although this was written six hundred years before Jesus, it describes the feelings of God's people as they look at Jesus on the cross. It's short, so let me quote it:
It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
He is wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities. He has taken upon himself the chastisement that makes us whole. That is what John the Baptist meant when he said, "Look, there is the Lamb of God."
The question comes: why? Why did the world need a Savior? Why did God's son become a man to suffer and die for us? Did the Word have to become Flesh? Was Christmas necessary? Well, we can't tell God what is necessary or not necessary. But we can try to come to an understanding of God's plan. From the very beginning of the world, all creation was entrusted to human beings. Sadly, man, in his selfishness and self-centeredness, perverted the whole purpose for creation. Instead of glorifying God, creation was used to satisfy man's selfish needs. But, God still did not take the gift of creation away from man. A man would once more restore creation to God's original plan. Jesus Christ is this man.
Some people continue to pervert the purpose of creation. Sadly, sometimes, we join them. We become so wrapped up in ourselves that we push God aside. We turn the good things of the world into the purpose of creation, being more concerned with our selfishness than seeing God's gifts as a means of glorifying Him. As long as we live like this true love cannot not exist in the world. We cannot give ourselves to others or to another if our main concept of how to live is to take, not to give. This is the reason why for some people life is meaningless and frustrating.
Jesus came to live as the Father wants us all to live. He sacrificed himself completely for others so that we could experience sacrificial love. He called us to use creation as the Father meant creation to be used. God's plan for mankind could once more be put into effect since the Son of God became a man. Entrusted with creation, a man restores the world.
In the visions of the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation a book is brought out sealed with seven seals. The book is God's plan for mankind. But the plan is sealed. "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?", a voice cries out." But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. The visionary sheds many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. But then one of the elders said, "Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals." Then the visionary saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain. Only the Lamb was worthy to once more restore God's plan for mankind.
And John the Baptist saw Jesus and proclaimed, "Look, there is the Lamb of God." The One who became a man was the Lamb slain for us. His death opened up the Book of God's plan for mankind. He restored our life with God. He conquered sin.
John the Baptist also said that Jesus is the One who will baptize with he Holy Spirit." Baptized with the Holy Spirit, we have been given the power of God to transform the world. We have been given the power to create a new world, a world with a new way of living, the way of sacrificial love.
When we say or sing, "Lamb of God" we are remembering what Jesus did for us and what he has empowered us to do for others. We are remembering his sacrifice to make God's love real on earth. We are reminding ourselves that joining Jesus in sacrificial love is the only way we can be his followers.
John the Baptist found his reason for existence. He was to point out the Lamb of God to the world. His mission is the mission of every Christian. We are to point out the Lamb of God to the world.
There is nothing greater that any of us can do in our lives than to reveal Christ to others, first to our children and then to all we encounter.
John the Baptist was not a typical person of his time. He was extraordinary. It really was not John's dress or diet or even his preaching that made him extraordinary, it was the fact that he found the purpose for his life. He looked to Jesus and said, "There is the Lamb of God."
Our lives can also be extraordinary. May we have the courage, like John the Baptist, to reveal Christ to the world. May we join the Baptist in saying with our lives, "Look, there is the Lamb of God."
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 49.3, 5-6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.1-3
Gospel: John 1.29-34
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
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