Sunday, January 15, 2012

Behold, the Lamb of God!

Readings for Sunday, January 15/ Second Sunday of Ordinary Time:
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
Psalm 40:2, 4,7-10
1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20
John 1:35-42

I have often said that the beauty and depth of the scriptures are quite often found in the seemingly insignificant details, those little words or phrases that are so quickly passed by and yet are really the key to understanding the passage. I believe the same thing is true of the liturgical celebration – and today we actually see an intersection of those two realities.

Let’s look again at the passage from St. John’s gospel. The scene opens with St. John the Baptist standing there with two disciples – Andrew is named and the other is traditionally believed to be John the Evangelist. As the Lord passes by, those beautiful words are found on the lips of the Baptist: Behold, the Lamb of God. That should sound familiar to us, especially since it is now said at every Mass as the priest holds up the host before the distribution of Holy Communion. Behold, the Lamb of God. Such simplicity; only a few words. And yet those words compel the disciples to follow, but apparently at a safe distance.

Then it happens – He turns toward them, asking, “What are you looking for?” You can almost see the astonished looks on the disciples’ faces as this great man, whom they honor with the title Rabbi, speaks to them. Their hearts are revealed as they respond, “Where are you staying?” They don’t want to just chat as they are walking, as if making superficial small talk. They want to stay for a while; they want to spend time with the Lord and get to know Him. Recognizing the desire of their hearts, the Lord shows them where He is staying and Andrew goes to get Simon Peter to bring him to meet the Lord. Here the passage ends, but the scriptures do not indicate that the disciples ever leave the house of the Lord. Rather, they imply otherwise in that the next day more disciples are called and the third day Jesus shows up at the Wedding at Cana with disciples and family at His side.

Imagine what it would have been like! To be there with the Lord in the flesh as He began His ministry of salvation. To hear Him speak as no person had before. What was spoken in the silence of that home as for one of the last times they are actually together without a crowd of people beating down the door? Surely it was enough to keep them there and keep them seeking to go deeper, and yet also to go out and proclaim the Good News to others as they had already begun to do.

But let’s go back to the beginning – Behold, the Lamb of God. We hear these words spoken by the Baptist so many years ago echoed at each Mass that we attend. When we hear them, do we realize that it’s not a statement of fact, so much as an invitation that is extended to us? The reason that the scriptures are often tied into the text of the Mass is because the Mass seeks to use the background of the scriptures to call to mind an entire story with just a few words. With these few words the priest once again acts as the Baptist did years ago to speak to the gathered disciples – all of us – and to point out the Lamb so that we too might all follow as those first disciples did. Think about the unspoken dialogue that takes place:

Behold, the Lamb of God! We follow and He turns to us and asks us as He asked Andrew and John – What are you looking for? ‘Say the word and my soul shall be healed,' we cry out. And so it is done.

Fr. Markey of the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny
It’s not by coincidence that the calling of the disciples in John’s gospel is followed immediately by the first miracle – changing water into wine at a wedding feast. And it is no coincidence that 2000 years later we come each Sunday to behold the Lamb, follow after Him and come to know His power and love in the midst of this sacred banquet, looking forward to the Heavenly Wedding Banquet where with the Lamb, the disciples, and all the angels and saints, we hope to hear the fullness of those blessed words: Come and see.