January 19, 2020.

Theme: Jesus Christ the Lamb of God

Today, we are celebrating the second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A although it is the first-time a green vestment is being used on a Sunday since this liturgical year began on the First Sunday of Advent, (1 December ‘19).

One may wonder when did we celebrate the First Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A? As a Church participant, you may recall celebrating first Sundays in Advent, Lent or Easter, but you may not remember ever celebrating a First Sunday in Ordinary Time whether in Year A, B or C. The last Sunday in Christmastide which is often the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, doubles as the First Sunday in Ordinary Time. Thus, prayers and readings are taken from first week in Ordinary Time during the weekdays following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

By design, this year, there is a continuity between the theme of the First Reading of this Sunday, (Is 49:3, 5-6), and the First Reading of last Sunday which was the Baptism of the Lord, (Is 42:1-4). Both were taken from the section of the Book of Prophet Isaiah known as Song of the Servant. In today’s Reading, the chosen servant of the Lord was entrusted with the responsibility of giving hope and meaning to the survivors of the Babylonian captivity who were despondent, and to be the light of the nations.

This prophesied chosen servant of God is Jesus Christ who was anointed by the Holy Spirit, (Acts 10:38). In the song of praise by Zachariah at the naming ceremony of his son, (John the Baptist), he referred to Jesus as the one who gave “light to those in darkness” and “in the shadow of death”, (Lk 1:67-79). During the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple when he was 40 days old, a senior citizen Simeon, who awaited the restoration of Israel, held the baby Jesus in his hands and praised God for according him the privilege of beholding the Messiah. He referred to Christ as the light of the Gentiles and the one who would restore glory to the people of Israel, (Lk 2:25-32).

Hence, as prophesied by Prophet Isaiah, Jesus brings hope and restoration to the people of Israel and he is the Light that brings the other nations to worship the true God. We recall that at his birth, the Jews represented by the shepherds, and the non-Jews represented by the three Magi came and worshipped God.

On this Sunday, there is a leap from the Gospel of Matthew which is the default Gospel for Sundays in Ordinary Time Year A to the Gospel of John. John the Baptist who came as a precursor to Jesus bore witness to him. John experienced baptism while he was still in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, during Mary’s visitation to her. We read that when Mary’s greeting reached the ears of Elizabeth, the baby in her womb, (John the Baptist), leapt for Joy, (Lk 1:39-45). Jesus, during his ministry, made us to understand that this was the moment John was baptised, (Mt 21:22-26).

John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the world”, and the one who baptises with “the Holy Spirit”; unlike himself whose baptism was one of repentance in preparation for the Messiah and did not confer the Holy Spirit on the penitents. John the Baptist vouched that he saw the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus, and that Jesus is the Chosen One of God! Here, John’s testimony corroborates the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading that Jesus is the Chosen Servant of God.

To understand the title of Jesus as the Lamb of God, one needs to ponder on the exodus experience, where the blood of lambs that was smeared on the door posts brought reprieve to the house residents, ensuring that all the members of the household lived to tell the story of the Lord’s goodness. Unlike the families who did not smear the blood of the lamb on their door posts and experienced casualties when the angel of death passed through their neighbourhood. Similarly, lambs were offered as holocaust at the Temple as a peace or sin offering. This blood of the lambs was figurative, it pointed to Christ.

Jesus as the Lamb of God offered himself at the altar of the cross to take away our sins. Through his suffering, death and resurrection we have been redeemed. At every Eucharistic celebration, during the Communion Rite, before the reception of the Eucharist, we re-affirm our faith in Christ as the Lamb of God, who has just been sacrificed anew on the Eucharistic altar. The Priest elevates the consecrated host and declares: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb”!

We then acknowledge our unworthiness before God because only God is worthy. We can stand before God and receive the bread of life because of the merit of Christ. We become members of the Church and are referred to as holy and saints, (Second Reading), because of the merit of Christ. May Christ the Lamb of God who came that you and I may have life and have it to the fullest always bestow his grace upon us. Amen
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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