With the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which we celebrated last Monday, we complete the Christmas season and now enter into a liturgical time that we call “ordinary time.” On this second Sunday, the first reading presents to us the call of Samuel to take over the leadership of the Chosen People. The second reading is from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in which St. Paul makes it crystal clear that justifying fornication as part of Christian liberty is an incorrect interpretation of his preaching, and that the body must be preserved from all immorality. Paul then talks about the spirituality of the human body and says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Paul instructs us to understand the truth that the Holy Spirit lives in us, and therefore, we need to keep our bodies holy by avoiding sin.
The Gospel presents to us the scene of the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the River Jordan. The narrator is the eye witness, John the Evangelist, who, before he was a disciple of Jesus, was a disciple of John the Baptist, together with his brother James, with Simon and Andrew, all from Galilee, and all who were fisherman. So, John the Baptist sees Jesus, who steps forward from the crowd. Inspired from above, John declares Jesus as the One sent by God. For this reason he points him out to his followers with these words: “Behold the lamb of God.” This was John’s mission to make Jesus, the Lamb of God, known to the people. As a sacrificial Lamb, Jesus came to die, to take away the sins of the world.
The phrase “take away” literally means “to relieve,” “to take upon oneself.” Jesus came into the world with a precise mission from his Heavenly Father: to free us from the slavery of sin, taking our faults and weaknesses upon Himself. In what way, and how did He do it? By loving; the price of love is laying down His life, that is, by dying on the cross. There is no other way to defeat evil and sin than with the love that moves one to give the gift of his life for others. In the testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus is given the traits of the Servant of the Lord, who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), to the point of dying on the cross. He is the true Passover Lamb, who immerses Himself in the river of our sin, to purify us.
The Baptist sees before him a man who gets in line with sinners to be baptized, even though He needs no such purification. He is the Man Whom God sent into the world as the Sacrificial Lamb. The word “lamb” appears several times in the Old and New Testament, and is always in reference to Jesus. This image of the lamb might surprise us: an animal that is certainly not characterized by its strength and toughness, but who takes upon himself such an oppressive weight. The enormous amount of evil is removed and taken away by a weak and fragile creature, who is a symbol of obedience, docility and defenseless love, who goes to the point of sacrificing himself. The lamb is not an oppressor but is docile; he is not aggressive but peaceful; he does not fight back in the face of an attack, but endures it and is submissive. And this is how Jesus is! He is like a lamb.
What does it mean for the Church, for us today to be disciples of Jesus, the Lamb of God? It means putting innocence in the place of malice, love in the place of force, humility in the place of pride, service in the place of prestige. We Christians must do this as well. Being disciples of the Lamb means that we must live like a city on a hill, open, loving, and welcoming people. I often come across people saying that our church, Santa Sophia is a friendly community. It makes me happy, and I thank you all for making it a friendly place. Please continue to do this. Greet people, and welcome them if they are new to the parish. This means not having an attitude of being closed, but proposing the Gospel to everyone, testifying with our lives that following Jesus makes us more free and joyful (Pope Francis, Angelus Address January 19, 2014).