Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 15th 2023
Lectionary Readings: Is.49:3,5-6, Ps.39:2-4:7-10, 1 Cor.1:1-3, John1:29-34
Theme: “Look, the Lamb of God”
This is ‘ordinary time,’ that part of our liturgical year that refers to those periods that fall outside of the major seasons and from the Latin word ‘ordinalis’ they are numbered in a series. In today’s gospel we have John the Baptist’s acknowledgement of Christ as the Lamb of God. As Jesus approaches, John called out to his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (1:29) For him the mystery of Christ had already been revealed. This then is the time of year in which Christ, the Lamb of God walks among us in order to transform our lives. There is nothing ‘ordinary’ about that!
John the Baptist saw Christ as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin. We know that our sins separate us from God and that we are all sinners, none of us are righteous before God. (Rom. 3:23) When we speak of the word ‘lamb,’ several images certainly come to mind. The Paschal lamb whose blood spared the Israelites from the loss of their firstborn or of the lambs offered as the Temple’s morning and evening sacrifice. In Isaiah 53.7 we read of the one who died to bear the sin of many and we recall that God provided a lamb as a substitute so that Abraham did not sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Gn. 22:7-13). Surely the disciples would have remembered Isaiah’s words in the figure of the suffering servant who endured suffering for our iniquities as a lamb led to the slaughter. (Is.53:7) The lamb, seen as a symbol of innocence, purity and blamelessness became a powerful image for Christians over the centuries.
In John’s gospel there are several depictions of Jesus, that of a Shepherd, the True Vine, the Bread of Life and the Light of the world. John actually begins the gospel proclaiming that Jesus is the Word, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (1:14) “We are asked to imitate, to do in our lives what Jesus did and, in this way keep incarnate the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world….Our task, too is to help take away the sins of the world. We do this whenever we take in hatred, anger, envy, pettiness and bitterness and hold them, transmute them and eventually give back as love, graciousness, blessing, compassion, warmth and forgiveness. Whenever we do this, The Lamb of God is still taking away the sins of the world, thousands of years later.” (Rolheiser, 55)
Of all the images that depict Christ, perhaps the one that we hear most often is ‘Lamb of God’ for at every Eucharist we pray Agnus Dei, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. At communion the priest again proclaims, “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.” Referring to this prayer, Pope Francis stated, “The verb that is translated as “take away” literally means ‘to lift up,’ to take on himself the sins of mankind. How? By loving. There is no other way to conquer evil and sin than by love that leads to giving up one’s life for others. What does it mean for the Church, for us today, to be disciples of Jesus, the Lamb of God? It means replacing malice with innocence, power with love, pride with humility, status with service.” (Angelus,19 January, 2014)
Reflection: Does the image of the Lamb of God assist me in understanding my faith, in my prayer and in my life? What effect does it have?
Bibliography: Rolheiser, R., The Passion and the Cross, (Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, OH, 2015.)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna/Alumnus:2001