Behold the Lamb of God
2nd Sunday Ordinary Time
January 15, 2023
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
(from John 1:29-34)
Why is Jesus called the “Lamb of God?” We hear this phrase at every Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God!” One way to understand the meaning of this is by looking at the Jewish feast of the Atonement. In ancient Israel, a lamb or goat was sent out to the desert to die, symbolically carrying the sins of the nation. This is where the term “scapegoat” comes from. Jesus, the Lamb of God became our scapegoat. Ironically, he still is a “scapegoat” in the eyes of many, an object of ridicule (and so are his believers!), even though he wishes to bring us to the true fullness of life as human beings in the next life.
The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would come in like a lion and vanquish the enemy. What they received instead was a “Lamb” that was slain. Jesus took the path of weakness, and that was his strength. In the same way, Jesus comes among us at Mass in weakness, in vulnerability, in a hidden way; disguised as bread, as something to be broken, and even eaten: “Behold the Lamb of God!”
The Eucharist is Jesus in present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He continues to come among us in this disguise, or form, just as he did on earth 2000 years ago. He did not look like the Son of God either or he would never have been crucified… John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and yet those around him saw only a man. We cry out, “Behold the Lamb of God!” at Mass, and yet (usually) see only bread and wine. All of this is so that we might have faith in him. In moments of doubt or crisis, when we receive the Eucharist, say with Thomas the Apostle, “Lord I believe in you, help my unbelief!”
Jesus often disguises himself in our lives. He frequently appears, not as a lion, but as a lamb. He comes in our weaknesses, our trials, our fears, even when we have sinned. He is often closest to us when we are at our most vulnerable, precisely because in his life on earth he chose weakness—even death on a cross out of love for us. He wanted us to be able to approach him in any need, and that he loves us no matter what the circumstances of our lives may be.
Let us pray that we may recognize Christ, our Lamb of God in his many disguises, even under the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist at Mass: Behold the Lamb of God!