January 19, 2020

JANUARY 19, 2020


Last week we had the “Greatest Contest of our Time” on the popular program “Jeopardy” hosted by the beloved Alex Trebek. James, Ken and Brad amazed us with their knowledge, awareness, expertise and timing. In the game of Jeopardy, the answer is in the form of a question. For example, “An animal that is small, cuddly, gentle and loving”. The answer would be “What is a lamb.”

For us Catholics, the phrase in today’s gospel “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” expressed by John the Baptist on seeing Jesus, is very familiar to us. It is in fact a liturgical prayer and has deep roots in Sacred Scripture.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah describes his persecution as being like a lamb led to the slaughter. The idea of a slaughtered lamb, provided the impetus for Isaiah to describe the suffering servant of God (Jesus) whose death pays for the sins of people. “As a Lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep before the shearers, silent and not opening its mouth” IS 53:7, these references from the Old Testament emphasize the importance in God’s command to offer a lamb in preparation for the exodus from Egypt. Indeed, the Aramaic word “talya” means both servant and lamb.

Today we hear the words in the psalm “Ears open to obedience you gave me” and “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”. The psalmist obviously is referring to Jesus, whose ears were always open to follow and do his Father’s will. It is very interesting, that when Jesus was announced by John the Baptist, John deferred to Jesus and stepped back and let Jesus take the limelight. He then proceeded to announce Jesus as “Behold there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We Catholics recite these words every week. In fact, we say them so often that we may forget or not reflect on their deeper meaning.

John could have said “Look there is the man of God or there is the Son of God”, but he wanted us to understand that Jesus was “gentle and humble of heart with the warmth and the inner goodness of a lamb.” We hear the word “lamb” at least four times in every Mass. We recite it or sing it following the Lord’s Prayer and the priest recites “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world” just before the reception of Holy Communion.

The word “lamb” also suggests a freshness and a newness. The house where I grew up is in a rural setting, overlooking green open fields. In the Springtime, I could look out the window and see the sheep with their lambs in the nearby fields. I remember one day a boy comes racing across the fields with excitement in his voice…”a new lamb has been born…the lamb is new”. The message of Christ the lamb is always new and brings us new life and refreshes our souls. It extends the presence of God within us and gives us new hope. We all need that hope within ourselves, in our homes and families and most importantly in our country and world.
Father Kevin

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