Readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; I Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
When I listen to what John’s Gospel has to say about John the Baptist, I start to ask questions. The Fourth Gospel has much to say about the Baptist but in a way different from the other three Gospels. Have you noticed that in today’s Gospel John the Baptist doesn’t seem to know who Jesus was?
That’s very different from Luke’s Gospel, for example, telling us that John and Jesus are cousins; or that John recognized Jesus when they were both in their mother’s wombs. Today’s Gospel provides the only description of Jesus’ Baptism that John the Evangelist wrote. It is not an actual image of the Baptism of the Lord–as described by Mark, Matthew or Luke–but a quote from the Baptist, his take on a past event. Unlike Luke’s Gospel, here the Baptist only recognizes Jesus after the fact of baptizing him. He’d seem to have no prenatal memories.
And who does the Baptist say Jesus is? Not “my cousin”; not the long awaited Messiah–that might carry untrustworthy expectations and projections. Instead he says Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That tells me more than “Messiah”, whom I might hope will bring a Utopia with no more conflicts or problems. That tells me more that what Jesus will do: that tells me who Jesus is in my life and what is expected of me.
This Lamb of God is the Paschal Lamb, the lamb sacrificed at the Passover, consumed bu God’s Chosen People, as a communion with God. The lamb represents their commitment to God’s call, leading them from servitude to become a priestly, kingly and holy people. The Lamb of God is the sacrament we celebrate on this altar; the Body of Christ that we are able to celebrate because we constitute that Body. We celebrate what we are called to be, what we are challenged to be, what we must daily strive to be.
In a sense, John is saying, it’s less important to know Jesus’ family tree; it is essential, however, to recognize who Jesus is in my life. That and that alone will make the entire difference in my life. Do I get it or don’t I?
To drive the point home, a little further in John’s Gospel we’ll see Jesus and his disciples showing up at the same wedding as his mother. She is unaware of the fact that this is not yet the hour to manifest who he is. She knows something more important: that he is the Lamb of God willing to sacrifice himself to be engaged even in our petty needs because he is God’s love incarnate. She puts her trust, her living faith in him and, as God would do for us, Jesus responds to her untimely request. On a level deeper that theological reflection, Mary recognizes who Jesus is and asks what no other mother could ask her son.
Who is Jesus in my life? Can I see what I am called to do but could never accomplish on my own? Can I admit my inability to understand God’s call? Can I, without grasping God’s timing, entrust myself to the Lamb of God?