Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 John 1: 29-34

"there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world"

Week in, week out, we make a threefold repetition of the Baptist's words just before we receive Holy Communion. Familiarity can cause us to miss their depth.

First we remember the God-given role of John the Baptist: today we hear him declare: “I am the witness that he (Jesus) is the Chosen One of God”. But at first, John says, “I did not know him myself” not until he was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. So, too, with us: we cannot recognise Jesus as Son of God and Saviour, nor can we believe that he is truly present in the gift of Holy Communion other than through the revealing grace of the Holy Spirit. Our faith is a precious gift from God.

Then we hear John’s declaration: “there is the lamb of God”. This title immediately calls to mind the Passover Lamb that will be sacrificed and consumed in memory of the liberation of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. The image of the lamb also refers to the Servant of the Lord of whom Isaiah speaks in today’s first reading, the one who will be “the light of the nations” bringing “salvation to the ends of the earth.” This Servant, Isaiah tells us later, will be sacrificed as a lamb who will bear the sins of others and so justify them. This is the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the cross and now given to us in the eucharist.

Finally, this is the lamb who takes away “the sin of the world”. In our repetition of the Baptist’s words at Mass we speak of the “sins” of the world, including all our own individual sins. However, used in this singular form in St. John’s Gospel, “the sin of the world” depicts rather “the world’s sin”, the sinful condition of the world, the entire power of evil at work in the world, the negative forces that lie behind what we would call structural or social sin. This is the Lamb, “the light of the nations” who conquers the darkness that pervades the world.