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Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Follo: John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

With the invitation to understand that our vocation is to share Christ who is indicated from St John onwards as ‘Lamb of God’

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A- January 19th, 2020

 Roman rite

Is 49: 3. 5-6; Ps 40; 1 Cor 1, 1-3; Jn 1: 29-34

 

Ambrosian Rite – Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Nm 20, 2. 6-13; Ps 94; Rom 8, 22-27; Jn 2: 1-11

 

1) Encountering the extraordinary of Christ in our ordinary life.

This Sunday begins Ordinary Time[1], the liturgical year during which the Church celebrates not a mystery of the life of the Lord and of the history of salvation, but the mystery of Christ in its totality.

In this ordinary time, the liturgy invites us to follow the Redeemer every day and does so starting from the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. In year A, it offers us the report by the apostle John in which it is said that from every part of Judea people went to John the Baptist in large numbers to listen to him and be baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. The fame of this “more than prophet” baptizer was so great that many wondered if he was the Messiah. But he replied firmly: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1,20). However, he remains the first “witness” of Jesus, having received indications from Heaven: “The man on whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33). This happened when Jesus, after being baptized, came out of the water: John saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove. It was then that John “knew” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth, and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1:31), indicating him as the Son of God, redeemer of man, and saying: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world “(Jn 1:29). Precisely from this verse begins the Gospel reading of today, which offers us the testimony of the Baptist who points with his finger and says with his mouth who Christ is, the Lamb he carries on himself and takes away the evil of the world and frees man.

The testimony always starts from a saying that is the point of arrival of an experience.

Another thing corresponds to saying: hearing. A word, if it is said but not listened to, does not exist; if the word is like a seed the ear is like the womb that welcomes it like the earth. The disciple is the one who hears the word. What happens when we listen? We understand the word, therefore the word gives information to our intelligence.  If the thing is true and interests us, we love it. Therefore, the word not only informs our intelligence but also our heart, love, and will and then we move on to action: the word informs our actions.

To man, everything comes from listening: his intelligence, his will, his action. The word totally determines us, we become the word we listen to. The disciples listen to this word. Listening is the second fundamental term, without listening there is nothing.

 2) The Lamb of God.

For a deeper understanding of these events, today’s Liturgy makes us examine them in the light of the divinity of Jesus, whose incarnation makes life a sanctuary of divinity. Not only his life is divine. With the salvation brought by him by taking away sins, our daily life, our work, our joys, and tenderness become the sphere of divine holiness.

In Jesus, Lamb of God[2], holiness is revealed as a formidable promotion of life and man. And man, forgiven, is transfigured, made son of God and craftsman of light with his own hands.

On the day of his ordination, the priest receives the consecration of the hands. It is a magnificent fact. But in Christ all hands are holy, all hands are consecrated, all hands can become hands of light.

In Christ, all bodies are called to become the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the Members of Jesus Christ. The Temple that we are is much more beautiful than any church made of stone, and God is in us more than in a church because He is in that church to be in us.

In the Gospel, all faces are called to radiate the Face of Christ. The vocation that He offers when presented to us as the Lamb of God is not a call to enter a forbidden sphere. To gather us in unity, he invites us to the table, where “very simply” we eat bread and wine, which the sacrament has made the body and blood of the Lamb of God. Therefore, we become the One we eat.

3) The Lamb of God who forgives.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Jn 1: 29-34) we find a profession of faith in Christ which is divided into three statements:

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1,29), the Lamb who leads to the source of life and happiness, and wipes every tear from our eyes (cf. Ap 7,14-17) ;

“I have contemplated the Spirit descending like a dove and stopping on him” (1.32);

And “the Son of God” (1.34).

The declaration on which I will dwell is the first: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, putting them on himself. The Immaculate One, who erases the sin of the world with his sufferings and his death, reveals His Heart to this world that wants to measure everything, even God and his gift. Today, as at every Mass, we are asked to accept this statement as it is, an indication of the Eucharistic gift of God to us, and to respond to it as the liturgy asks us: “Lord, I am not worthy to participate in your table: but just a word and I will be saved. ” The Lamb, which the priest shows by elevating the host, is to be worshiped in his divine humility and to be eaten in communion to his infinite charity.

To understand today’s Gospel passage well, let’s go back to the scene it describes. After forty days in the desert where he had gone after John’s baptism, Jesus returns to the Baptist. He must have been shocked to see the Son of God return to him and moreover with an aspect of man tried by fasting and temptations suffered in the desert. John knows that the man who comes to meet him again is the Son of God, the Beloved. He sees the Messiah, who is from the tribe of Judah, but in him, he does not perceive the Lion of Judah, he sees the Lamb of God, the victim who offered himself freely in sacrifice for the world to be redeemed.

Among the multitude of sinners, he recognized the innocent splendor of the Man-God, who had left the glory of Heaven to go to the slaughterhouse on Earth and indicated him to the disciples as a person to follow.

The disciples did not understand. They were unable to understand what their master John meant by indicating the Master Jesus as the Lamb, an image not clearly known to the Jews to indicate the long-awaited liberator. We instead know (or at least we can know) that in the New Testament the word lamb occurs four times and always in reference to Jesus. In fact, from the beginning the Church looked at Jesus as He saw himself, that is, as the servant of God – innocent, suffering and patient – like a lamb led to the slaughterhouse. In Aramaic “talja” means both “lamb” and “servant”. Finally, according to the evangelist John, Jesus is compared to the paschal lamb, as it can be deduced from the fact that the crucifixion took place coinciding with the Jewish Passover and even with the same time in which the lambs were sacrificed for the Easter sacrifice in the temple (As it can be read in the book Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, Milan 2007).

Today’s Gospel confronts us with the mission of tenderness of Christ who asks for the collaboration of our love. This Gospel makes us take our steps in the steps of Jesus and asks us to accompany him to the end, to realize this mysterious plan in which the triumph of God must be accomplished in the “defeat” of the Cross so that we know that it is not for us to wait with folded arms the realization of a destiny that is accomplished without us. On the contrary, we are involved in the work to build with God a world founded on love, a world whose creative dimension is a dimension of generosity and self-giving, with Christ, for Christ, and in Christ.

The Church always treasures the Heart of the Bridegroom in its heart, and in the heart of the Church, it is always possible to live holiness and become the beautiful bride of the immolated Lamb.

In this, the consecrated virgins are of example. They answered yes to Christ the bridegroom and thanks to that yes, their presence in the Church and in the world is a living Gospel, a testimony of God, which they offer, reveal and communicate without needing to speak. Their life is a life of communion of love with Christ, who calls, forgives and dwells with us by conforming us to him: ” In the consecrated life, then, it is not only a matter of following Christ with one’s whole heart, of loving him “more than father or mother, more than son or daughter” (cf. Mt 10:37) — for this is required of every disciple — but of living and expressing this by conforming one’s whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms”. (St. John Paul II, Ex. Post-Sin. Apost. Vita Consecrata, No. 16).

 

[1] Ordinary time consists of 33 or 34 weeks, distributed between the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of Lent (first period), and between the week after Pentecost and the Solemnity of Christ the King (second period).

Two elements are fundamental to grasp the meaning and importance of ordinary time: the lectionary, which with the semi-continuous reading of the synoptic gospels rhythms the journey of the days of the week, and Sunday as the Lord’s day and the first day of the week . On Sundays, in each annual cycle, a different evangelist is read. In the year A it is Matthew, in the year B Mark, in the year C Luke. The first readings from the Old Testament are chosen based on the Gospel passage so that there is a relationship of promise-fulfillment, prophecy-realization. The second readings instead follow the semi-continuous reading of the Pauline correspondence, of the letter of James and of the letter to the Jews. Even on weekdays, the criterion of semi-continuous reading of biblical texts is followed. The three synoptic gospels are read every year: Mark (weeks 1-9); Matthew (weeks 10-22); Luke (weeks 23-34).

[2] The characterization of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is surprising, a phrase that can also be translated as follows: “which bears upon itself the sin of the world”. The Greek word means ‘to move away, to take away’, and to do this what must be taken away must be loaded on the shoulders.

To take away the sin of the world, the Lamb takes upon himself the consequences of sin by atoning for us, and thus removes all effects from sin, or rather from the guilt of sin. Therefore, this expression brings together two things, the taking of weight and its elimination. This exegesis illustrates well the ambivalence of the Greek expression ho airon ten hamartian tou kosmou (lat. qui tollit peccatum mundi), whose Greek verb airo, like the Latin tollere means to take away, to take on oneself, to load oneself on shoulders. It is not a philological erudition in itself. With this expression, in fact, the Gospel refers both to the fourth poem of the Servant of the Lord (Is 53.1-12), to the scapegoating lamb of Leviticus 14, 12-13, and finally to the paschal lamb (Ex 12, 1-14; Jn 19:36) which becomes the symbol of redemption.

About Francesco Follo

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