lamb of God

Behold, the Lamb of God!

One of the first people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah was His cousin, John. When Mary journeyed to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb for joy, in recognition of the Messiah, quietly residing in Mary’s womb.

We have no record in Sacred Scripture of the relationship between Jesus and His cousin John as they grew up. Their relationship picks up as John begins his public ministry, calling people to repentance in order to prepare for the Messiah. However, it would not be hard to imagine that these two spent time together as boys, doing what boys do: exploring and hiking, finding creepy crawly things, helping their parents.

John’s role in salvation history is quite important, as author Jimmy Akin points out:

He served as the forerunner or herald of the Messiah and was to prepare for him by fulfilling an Elijah-like role by calling the nation to repentance.

In keeping with that, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

He also came to identify and announce the Messiah. According to John the Baptist: “I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31).

In the Gospel reading yesterday, John the Baptist makes a bold proclamation to his followers. He points out Jesus and cries out: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus, he tells those gathered, will take away the sins of the world, and that the Spirit of God has made known to John that Jesus is the Son of God. John’s boyhood friend and cousin is the Messiah, the one who will save us all from sin and death.

To our ears, “Lamb of God” may seem like an unusual phrase. To Jews however, this phrase is quite familiar, and very important. This image is at the heart of the Jewish covenant story, as God brought them out of Egypt and slavery. Fr. Aaron Kuhn:

The original lamb was sacrificed during the time of Moses (1393-1273 B.C.), and its blood marked the doorposts of the Israelites and saved them from the last plague, the angel of death passing over the city and killing every firstborn child and animal (Exodus 12). The body of the lamb was eaten as a sacrificial rite. The blood of the lamb saved the people from death.

The gospel of John the Evangelist—the Beloved Disciple—which we heard today is a Passover message.  At the beginning of the gospel, Jesus is presented as the new Passover lamb, taking the place of the traditional lamb during the celebration of the Passover meal and instead offering his body as food and his blood to save us from death. “I am the living bread come down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world … unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you … my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:51, 53, 55).

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul’s words seem to fit this scene of John’s declaration quite well:

For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. (1 Cor. 13: 9-11)

John the Baptist knew that his role in salvation was “partial:” his job was to point the way to the “perfect,” Jesus Himself. These boyhood friends now had to step into the roles God had created for them: prophet and Messiah. Just as they had to put away childish things, so must we. Our faith in the Lamb of God must always be growing, always deepening. “Behold! The Lamb of God!” Our own hearts must cry out for Him, our souls’ greatest desire. Our lives must always point the way to Him, our salvation, so that others may also come to know and believe.

“Behold! The Lamb of God!”

blessed broken

Advent: Blessed And Broken


Today’s readings have a theme: brokenness and blessing. In the first reading, from Judges, the wife of Manoah is barren. Barrenness (infertility) during this time was often seen as a punishment from God for a transgression. This transgression need not be the woman’s; it could be a family member. However, Manoah’s wife has a vision from an angel and is told she will have a son. The son is Samson, who becomes the last of the judges of the Jewish people.

Then, in the Gospel, we have the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They are known to be holy and upright people, but have never conceived a child. They have grown old waiting and hoping. Then, Zechariah is chosen to enter the sanctuary of the temple (something only priests could do.) He too has a vision of an angel and is told his wife will bear a child. Zechariah gets a little feisty over this, and questions the angel: “We are old! How in the world will we have a baby??” Well, it happens, and the child is conceived. Unfortunately for Zechariah, his questioning is received poorly by God and Zechariah is struck mute.

For anyone who has struggled with infertility, the brokenness of the situation is harsh. It seems as if everyone you know is having a baby. People ask, “When are you going to start a family?” It hurts to walk through a store and see moms and dads pushing carts with babies, cooing and laughing as they do their shopping. And after a while, you start asking God, “Why me? Why us? We are good people! We’d make good parents! Why are you doing this to us??”

Then there is poor Zechariah. He’s been a good servant to God his entire life, but when a profound vision and blessing are given to him, his first reaction is not to believe. Who can blame him? Most of us would likely react in the same way. His disbelief costs him his voice (which returns when his son is born.)

We all are broken. We sin. We suffer. Sometimes, it seems as if all we do is suffer: the roof is leaking, the car is out of commission, bills upon bills pour in. Or maybe the suffering is physical: the effects of chemotherapy or a diagnosis of a chronic illness. Many families suffer because of the addiction of one of their members: a son or daughter, sister or brother who is an alcoholic or drug addict. The readings today beg the question, “Hey, God! Where are  you???”

The Japanese have a term called wabi sabi. The Japanese believe that things that are broken not only have value, but beauty. A vase that is cracked has the cracks sealed, perhaps with a gold sealant. A kimono that is torn is patched with a bit of gorgeous fabric. The brokenness becomes not a  distraction but an enhancement, making what was broken lovelier and pleasing.

Yes, we are all broken. We suffer and sin. We muddle our way through days limping and coughing. We are burdened with bills and blindness. We wonder where God is in all this mess.

In both the readings today, we have couples who are broken. They are devoted to God, but wonder where He is. What they don’t know is that God is preparing them for huge blessings. How were Zechariah and Elizabeth to know that God was preparing them for a son who would be the precursor to Jesus? How were they to know that their brokenness would give birth to the man who acclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God!”?

Today, spend some time looking at the brokenness you have in your life. Keep in mind that idea of wabi sabi. Where has God mended the brokenness in ways you could not have imagined? Where are the blessings you might never have had if not for the brokenness? Yes, our lives are filled with brokenness, but God always provides blessings as well.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]