The ‘Lamb of God’ is one of the many titles given to Christ, repeated often in the Bible and in the Mass as well before we receive Holy Communion. It is a symbolic title which John the Baptist also used in presenting Christ after he agreed to baptize him.
Upon seeing Jesus coming towards him, John the Baptist proclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. This brief profession of faith explains who Jesus is – the Lamb of God, and the purpose of his mission – taking away the sin of the world.
The first meaning of ‘Lamb of God’ is a reference to the Suffering Servant of God, who gives up his life as a ransom for the sins of many. The Jews had a tradition of offering young lambs in the Temple each morning and evening as an offering for their sins. Now, with the coming of Christ into the world, the sin of the world is being wiped away through the sacrifice of One. Animals are no longer offered, but it is now God who is offering himself in sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. Jesus’ primary mission was to offer his life for the forgiveness of our sins and the sin of the world. Through his sacrifice we have been forgiven the debt of our sins and now life has been given back to us.
The second meaning of ‘Lamb of God’ is a reference to the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover, when the Jews were freed from their slavery in Egypt. The forgiveness we receive through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is a liberation for us all. When our sins are forgiven we are freed from the bonds of slavery to sin and we are liberated to a new life with God. Only one who is innocent as a lamb could offer a sacrifice of atonement for the sin of the world. Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: ‘to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Cf. Mk 10:45).
What are we then to do in today’s modern world where many still don’t consider themselves sinners? We have many people who refuse to recognize the sin that is present in their lives. Others minimize the gravity of sin by saying ‘everybody’s a sinner therefore we cannot avoid sinning’. Some never approach the sacrament of confession, while others are afraid to. Meanwhile, God has given us the means to rid ourselves of our personal sins through the sacrament of confession and he constantly appeals to us to avoid sinning at all costs. However, we are still hesitant or afraid, and we remain frightened, confused and dissatisfied with our lives.
Through Christ, God is giving us a chance to be truly free of the forces of sin and evil. As Christians we know and believe that the Spirit of God has been given to us at our Baptism and Confirmation. We participate in the same Spirit of God which created the universe and everything that exists, the same Spirit which consecrated our Lord Jesus Christ for his salvific mission in the world. This is a great mystery and gift at the same time, yet are we aware of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord in our lives?
When we are guided by the Spirit of God and not the spirit of the world, three things happen to us. First of all, our lives are enlightened. Through the Spirit we come to a greater knowledge of God and his will. We get to know what God’s purpose is, what life means, where duty lies. Some of God’s wisdom and light is given to us. How many of us desire a greater knowledge of God, to know him better, to find out what he wants from us in our lives? When we pray for the Spirit of the Lord, we are enlightened to a knowledge of the presence of God, which no other earthly force can provide us.
Secondly, through the Spirit our lives are strengthened. Sometimes due to life’s circumstances we may feel weak and unprepared for life’s tasks. We may come across situations where we do not know what to do. The Spirit of God gives us not only the knowledge of what is right, but also the strength and power to do it. The Spirit of God gives us the necessary strength to cope with life’s difficulties and challenges.
Thirdly, through the Spirit, our lives are purified. The Holy Spirit gives us a greater knowledge of ourselves. It brings before us our personal sins and awakens in us an abhorrence of sin and evil. It also awakens in us a desire to be cleansed of sin and gives us the courage to confess them in order to be purified and renewed in grace. The Spirit shows us the beauty of goodness and love and the great dangers of sin and evil.
This Spirit is within us. It is available and we can constantly receive it as well. All we have to do is to want it with all our hearts and minds. We should therefore avoid praying for useless things that God may never grant us, and instead we should always pray that the Spirit of God guide us in our lives.
When we pray for the Spirit of God, which should keep these three things in mind. We are praying in order to be enlightened, strengthened and purified, in order to be better witnesses for God in this world of ours. We as believers are therefore a distinct society, since we are guided not by the philosophies and mentalities of the world, but by the Spirit of the Lord, which descended upon and remained with Christ the Lord, the Lamb of God. We may have moments when we feel ‘bursts’ of the Spirit, but they may go as quickly as they came. However, for Christ, the Spirit descended upon him and stayed upon him.
As we come to communion today, to receive the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’, let us ask him to renew us in his Holy Spirit, so that we may offer our lives to him as a sacrifice of love, for our own salvation and the salvation of others.