Sunday Sermon for January 19, 2020, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 49:5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
In the Gospel reading today we have two statements by St. John the Baptist regarding the identity of Jesus. First, he states that Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Second, he testifies that Jesus “is the Son of God.” In between these two statements St. John reiterates what he was told by God Himself, saying that Jesus is the One Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
These three statements are all interdependent. Theoretically, many people can be identified as lambs of God. We could say that the martyrs are, in a sense, lambs of God because they suffered and died for our Lord. However, the martyrs would be the first to point out that their sufferings do not save anyone; their sufferings do not take anyone’s sins away. There is only One Who is the Lamb of God, offered as the Passover Lamb so the Angel of Death would pass over our souls.
God required of the Hebrew people that the father of the family had to procure a lamb, slaughter it at twilight, put the blood of the lamb on the door posts and lintels of their house, then eat the roasted flesh of the lamb. Because of our Baptism into Jesus, we have the privilege to call God our Father. We have become His sons and daughters. Therefore, our Father procured a Lamb for His family. The Blood of the Lamb was applied to our souls to wash away our sins and, with our sins removed, our souls were filled with the life of God, sanctifying grace. It is not enough that the Lamb be slaughtered and the Blood applied to our souls; like the people of old, we must eat the Flesh of the Lamb. This is the soul’s greatest gift: to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
The Lamb of God is also the Son of God. Our Father did not ask anyone to be a sacrifice to appease His anger. Instead, He gave us His own Son to reveal the depth of His love for us. We must also be clear that you and I are sons and daughters of God only because we are baptized into Jesus. He alone is the Son of God. So, although the same term can be applied to us, it is used in a very different sense when speaking of Jesus and when applied to us.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah. He tells us God’s Servant will not only raise up and restore the survivors of Israel, but He will be a light to the nations so the salvation of God can reach to the ends of the earth. This same passage speaks of the Messiah as being the covenant. He is the covenant into Whom we have been baptized and He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. Being baptized into Jesus allows us to participate in everything that is His. In other words, we can be lambs of God who share in the suffering of Christ and we can be children of God sharing in the divinity of Christ. This is because He has baptized us with the Holy Spirit Who transforms us and gives is a share in the divine life.
St. Paul speaks to this mystery in the second reading when addresses those “who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” Everyone who has been baptized has been made holy, but we are all called to greater holiness. With our sins removed and sanctifying grace infused into our souls, we are holy; we are members of the Communion of Saints. But this holiness, glorious as it is, is small in comparison to the level of holiness the Lord desires for us. He wants us to be great Saints.
Based on what we have already said, it should be evident that everything necessary to make us great Saints is already being provided by God. We have the removal of sin, we have grace, we have been made sons and daughters of God, sharing His divine nature and His divine life, and we have union with Jesus, the Son of God, in Holy Communion. God has done everything necessary on His part to make us Saints.
If we are not great Saints, then we must look at our own cooperation, or lack thereof, with all these gifts given by God. What is our response? Do we really want to be Saints? Are we willing to be lambs of God? Are we willing to live as children of God? God has not only saved us from our sins, He has brought us into His own life and love. He has given us everything we need to be Saints. Now he awaits our response.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.