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Father Muench Says...

‘Behold the Lamb of God’

January 29, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The first part of the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John speaks of Jesus as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This month, we celebrate Jesus as the Word of God. In the second part of that same chapter of St. John’s Gospel, we are told that on the day after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, John noticed Jesus coming down the roadway. John pointed out Jesus to his disciples and those standing near him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

We, Catholics, use this expression of “the Lamb of God” for Jesus, especially during Mass. At Mass, before Holy Communion, we sing together, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.” “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give us peace.” And then the priest celebrant holds up the consecrated Body of Christ and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who comes to take away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to his supper.”

This expression, the Lamb of God, touches our Hebrew roots. I am certain you remember the story. We must go all the way back to the Book of Exodus, the second book of the Torah, the Old Testament. The Hebrew people were being held in slavery in Egypt. Moses is commissioned by God to return to Egypt to seek freedom for his Hebrew people and lead them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses is guided by God to bring plagues on Egypt. These plagues would make the Egyptians want to free the Hebrews and allow them to leave Egypt.

We often think of plagues as diseases of some sort. Here, the ten plagues were some sort of harmful infestation like the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, a pestilence of boils, a hailstorm, locusts, a plague of darkness. The tenth plague was the death of the firstborn. At a certain time, God would send the Angel of Death and cause the death of the firstborn in each family.

To protect the Hebrew families, each family was instructed to procure a lamb and prepare it for a meal. They were told to take some of the blood of the lamb and place it over the doors of their homes. This would be a sign that this was a Hebrew family and the Angel of Death would Passover that home. The blood of the Lamb would save and protect the Hebrew families.

To this day Jewish homes continue to celebrate and remember this event with a special home celebration. They continue to call this special meal and celebration, The Passover. Each year, the Passover is celebrated very close in time to our Holy Week and Easter. The Passover is a meal to celebrate that our people were once slaves, but God came and set them free.

For us, Catholics, we are set free by Jesus. Jesus came among us to live with us and teach us and then die for us and rise to new life. Just as the blood of the lamb won freedom for the Hebrews of the Exodus, so Jesus shed his blood to free us and win for us freedom from the slavery of sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God.

There is no other word for the addiction of sin than slavery. It can hold us back from being free to live in the Lord’s Spirit. Jesus comes to us as our Savior. Jesus comes to our world as the Lamb of God. Jesus comes to give us the joy of freedom by forgiving our sins. Jesus comes to show us the happiness of freedom. Jesus teaches us to live in the love of God. We are a loved people.

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