19 January 20202 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - John 1: 29-34

An artist was working on a church roof in Werden, Germany. His safety belt snapped and he fell. The area below was filled with sharp rocks. As fate would have it, a lamb chose that moment to have its lunch of grass. He fell on the lamb. The beast was destroyed, but the artist survived. He did the decent thing. He sculptured a lamb and placed it on the roof in gratitude. It stands there to this day.

Today we come together at this Liturgy to remember and salute another Lamb. Each of us likewise owes Him much. He too gave His life for us. But with one substantial difference. Jesus voluntarily surrendered His life to save ours.

This Gospel opens just after Jesus had finished His forty day fast. He was probably bivouacing in a farmer's reed hut near the Jordan River and near John the Baptist's camp. He would soon head north into Galilee to begin His life's work. One hopes He took the time to put some pounds back on His lean frame after His fast. He had to be just skin and bones.

He had come once again to check out John the Baptist whom He would always admire. He had a premonition He would never see him again. We know He was correct.

What did John have in mind when He excitedly pointed at Jesus and shouted for all to hear, "Behold, the Lamb of God..."

The Jews at that time would feel comfortable with this interpretation.

In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, there lived the great Jewish family of the Maccabees. The family led the Jewish opposition in Israel to their conqueror Syria and the cultural influences of the Greeks. Thanks to the family's mighty efforts, the purity of Jewish religious and political life was restored. The greatest of the family was a gentleman named Judas Maccabaeus. He was the Jewish George Washington and Abraham Lincoln all wrapped in one. The symbol of this superb general was our friend the lamb. The story is told in detail in the Books of the Maccabees of the Old Testament. Obviously John the Baptist and his Jewish audience were familiar with the Old Testament scriptures. Are you and I?

In this context, the lamb stood not for a dumb beast but a conqueror and spokesman for God. It was used also in this fashion for Messrs Samuel, David, and Solomon of Old Testament fame.

The Baptist was saluting not a passive wimp or nerd, however divine, but rather a cosmic hero. He would battle Satan and would emerge from the fray as the conqueror. John was inviting his listeners to sign up with this new Judas Maccabaeus. But this new Maccabaeus, as John tells us in verse 34 of today's Gospel, is the Son of God.

The Christians in Czechoslovakia on Nov 29, 1989 did precisely that. When Communism fell in their country on that day and the Church was once again free, they put a sign on a lawn of a Prague church. It read: THE LAMB WINS.

The Lamb entered Christian tradition not bleating but roaring. The author of of the Book of Revelation uses the term in reference to Christ twenty-nine times in twenty-two chapters. We shall speak of Jesus as the Lamb five times in today's Liturgy. See if you can spot each one. Recall the number of canvases, frescoes, stained glass windows, and vestments on which you have seen the Lamb drawn. It is among the most popular symbols in Christendom.

If the lamb, who saved the German artist's life, had taken his face out of the grass long enough to see the fellow coming down, he would have gotten out of the way ASAP. He might well have thought, "That's not my job." But the Lamb of God is something else again. He willingly laid down His life for us.

The Baptist spent most of his life out in the wilderness. Still he had been around some years in what we delicately call civilization. He was aware of the fickleness of human love. Cleverly he points out the difference between that kiss and run variety and the permanent love that his Lamb offers. He wants us to bet on a winner and avoid losers.

In this short Gospel of five verses, John e-mails us the message that Jesus is in this struggle for the long haul. He is going to stay around to hold us up and, if necessary, pick up the pieces. This week make the Carthusian monks' motto your own: "To seek God assiduously, find God promptly, and possess God fully."

Sources: Arthur Tonne, William Barclay, and Joseph Donders

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Lamb of God

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."

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Ordinary Time

We begin the Sundays in Ordinary Time with this account from the Gospel of John of the occasion when John the Baptist points out Jesus and identifies him as the Lamb of God. The first thing we should realise is that according to the Law of Moses a lamb was sacrificed each morning and evening in the Temple in expiation for the sins of the people.

Also, on the feast of Passover each family sacrificed a lamb and eat its meat in a sacrificial meal. This meal called to mind the meal the People of Israel eat on the night of the first Passover when they were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt.  We can see that there is a strong connection with sin, since sin is a form of slavery and is definitely something that we need rescuing from.

So, when John the Baptist said 'Look there is the Lamb of God' the people would have had understood that he was making an explicit link with the hundreds of lambs sacrificed for sin in the Temple and also the many more lambs sacrificed on the night of the Passover Feast. It becomes clear then that John is pointing out that Jesus is the one who is coming to free the people from their sins.

Of course, all those lambs sacrificed in the Temple did not free the people from any actual sins. Only God can forgive sin and so it had to be God who seeing the sacrifices that were being offered exercised his mercy and forgave the people their sins. But, as we now know, all these sacrificial lambs were merely foreshadowing Jesus who is the real Lamb of God and who by his sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary would really and definitively expunge all our sins past, present and future.

It is no mistake then that the death of Jesus occurred at Passover time. Nor was it any surprise that at the moment of his death the veil of the Temple was torn in two as a sign that from then on men should turn to Christ and see him as their one true Saviour.

We begin these Sundays of Ordinary Time examining the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry but we do so with an eye on the end of the story. We see from the outset that Jesus is the Lamb of God and that his principal task is to take away the sins of the world. This is the reason he has come among us; this is his true purpose; this is something in which the whole world can rejoice.

In the text John the Baptist says twice that he did not know Jesus. We have to take this with a pinch of salt. We know from the accounts in St Luke's Gospel that John the Baptist certainly knew Jesus, indeed that he was his cousin and only six months younger than John. So we cannot and should not take these particular words of St John literally.

According to me, what John the Baptist means is that he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. John instantly recognises who Jesus is when he walks towards him on that glorious day. He already knew he was Jesus of Nazareth but at that particular moment he had a revelation or an inner recognition that Jesus was in fact the one who had come from God to save us from our sins.

He then does the thing that he was destined to do, the one thing that for his whole life he had been preparing, he identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. So important is this incident that the Church explicitly refers to it every time we celebrate the Eucharist when the priest holds up the host and the chalice and says, '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.'

Christianity is an historical religion, we deal in real and actual historical events, real physical people situated in a particular time or place. This is not so with other religions that rely heavily on myth and allegories. The events in the Gospel reading today actually happened, On that blessed day, Jesus walked towards John who recognised him and proclaimed to the crowd just who Jesus was. This is specific, it is real, it actually happened. And Christians down through the ages return over and over again to the specific events of the life of Christ to learn more about him and also to learn how to live out the beliefs and tenets of Christianity in their own day.

This is what Paul is on about in his letters, such as the one given to us today written to the Corinthians; he wants them to come to a realisation of what is required of a Christian who is living in another place or another era than that of Christ himself.

That our religion is based on actual facts on specific occurrences and real people living in history tells us that the events of our everyday life are vitally important. Ours is not an otherworldly religion; it is not based on myths and legends. No, it is historical and factual and it is all about the real world in which we live.

As Christians we regard time itself as sacred. We are living in what we might call redeemed time, because of our salvation all time has been made holy. We commemorate this through the sacred liturgy which marks time off with its recurring feasts and seasons. The liturgy helps us to realise that the time in which we live is sacred and blessed because it is the place in which we live out our Christian lives, it is the milieu in which we work through our struggles with evil and by the frequent use of the sacraments come ever closer to God.

Moreover, what happens to us each day is part of the unfolding history of Christianity. The challenges we face, the threats to our faith and how we overcome them, all these things are part of a much wider picture which is that of the growth of the reign of Christ in the world. Like Paul we too are called to be Apostles, to be Christ's servants in the world in which we live. Like John the Baptist it is our task too to point out to those around us just who Jesus is.

It is not sufficient that the people among who we live know that a man called Jesus lived his life two thousand years ago. No, they need to be aware that he is indeed the Lamb of God, the one true Saviour of the World. This is our task; this is the role we have been given by Christ –to make him known. And we are to convey not just that he existed but precisely who he is, that he is the Son of God, that he is our Saviour, that he loves us and wants us to live with him for all eternity in heaven.

This is indeed Good News and it deserves to be heard by every single person in the world.
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