Last week our Gospel text, and my sermon, focussed on WHO the Lord Jesus is and was: the SON.
We just heard, in today’s gospel text, this question of His identity get a different answer, not an answer rooted in His identity (Son), but an answer rooted in His ROLE (what He came to do):
We heard St John the Baptist point to the Lord Jesus and declare He was the “chosen one” of God (Jn 1:34).
But, ‘Chosen’ for what? St John the Baptist’s immediate answer, to be:
“The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”(Jn 1:29).
This answer strikes at the core of His role, but, it’s a role much neglected in our contemporary society.
The Lord Jesus has come to “take away sin”.
When we look through human history, in all sorts of ancient writings and ancient archaeology of temples (pagan as well as Jewish) there is a constant striving by humans to offer sacrifices to take away sins -to whatever they imagine the god or gods to be:
Animal sacrifices; crop sacrifices; even human sacrifices.
All of this desire to make sacrifices was rooted in an awareness that we do in fact SIN,
and we need to offer up something to take this sin away.
Any yet, What can we offer that would be worthy of a god? Let alone the One eternal true God?
Only the one “chosen” by God could be worthy of God.
Only the one sent, the one who is God Himself, can be worthy of God.
Thus Jesus, the eternal SON of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God
-only He can be a worthy sacrifice to take away our sin.
And it should utterly amaze us that God should do this!
Modern society, however, typically denies that we have a sin problem.
Popes since the middle of the twentieth century have spoken about “the loss of the sense of sin” in modern society (for example, click):
We forget that there is a personal God,
and thus we forget that our behaviour can be a personal offence against Him.
Yet, it’s His world, we are His creatures, and when our behaviour disobeys His commands it offends Him -this is what we call “sin”.
And we need it taken away, we need it forgiven -forgiven by a power beyond ourselves.
“The Lamb of God” is the sacrifice that can take away our sin.
Let me take that in a different direction:
To whom do we come in the Mass?
Into WHOM is the bread and wine converted?
Who, when the priest holds up the consecrated host before the time of Communion, WHO does the priest identify Him as?
“Behold, the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sin of the world”
-the priest quotes St John the Baptist.
In a world that thinks no one sins, in a world that thinks we are all already worthy, the liturgy reminds us of the opposite, as we respond,
“Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” (c.f. the words of the centurion Mt 8:8).
We are reminded that we need to strive to make ourselves worthy, in the same way that St John the Baptist called the people to do so long ago:
Repent, he told them -so we must repent, continually;
Confess your sins -as they did to him in the river Jordan, so we must do in sacramental confession;
Thus frequent confession is necessary for frequent communion
Otherwise, as St. Paul says, we eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves (1 Cor 11:28).
Following this teaching of Scripture, the new Catechism(1457) and the Law of the Church (Canon 916) remind us, that if it is a serious sin in question: we must repent and go to confession before we receive Holy Communion.
Because we cannot acknowledge Him to be the Lamb who takes our sins, if we do not also desire to have our sins taken away.
To receive him who takes away our sins, we must prepare.
And IF we prepare, then it is a blessed thing we can enter into
-we a share the eternal banquet of heaven even while we live on earth.
“Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb”
-this being an image from the book of Revelation’s description of heaven (Rev 19:6).
Last week, I spoke of how the core of the Lord Jesus’s IDENTITY was that He is “SON”,
and that we are called to share in that by adoption -to be ‘sons in the Son’.
This week, our liturgy tells us that the core of the Lord Jesus’s ROLE is the “LAMB” who “takes away our sin”
-let’s acknowledge our need to have our sin taken away,
let’s approach Him humbly, in repentance, and confession,
and rejoice to have Him take away our sin.