Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 15, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 49:3, 5-6 / Ps 40 / 1 Cor 1:1-3 / Jn 1:29-34
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today our gospel reading relates the beginning of the public life of Jesus. Christmas is over. The child is grown up. He has become a man and is baptized in the waters by John the Baptist. This is a sign of His oneness with all of humanity. He is indeed the Messiah; true God and true man.
Today we hear John the Baptist testifying that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and Son of Man. Jesus is walking by and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He doesn’t say, “Behold the Messiah.” He doesn’t say, “Behold the Son of God.” Instead, he says, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Lambs are very important to a shepherd people. Of course, we think of the lamb most of all when Jesus says that He is the shepherd, and the lambs hear His voice and follow Him.
This, however, is not what John the Baptist has in mind. What John has in mind is something much deeper, something much more important. He’s telling his followers that this is the sacrificial lamb offered at the time when the people were under the slavery of Egypt. The lamb was offered that terrible night, with its blood placed upon the doorpost of all the children of Israel. The lamb became the sacrifice by which all of them were freed. This is the lamb who is the sacrificial lamb. This is the Messiah who does not come with great armies. This is the Messiah who comes to us as a sacrificial lamb, and as John says, who offers His entire life so that sins may be forgiven.
The word, sin, is very much used, but does not exist in any other language except Hebrew. This word is a gift of the Jewish people, who recognize something very important in its use. We think of sin as something that offends the ten commandments. It’s not that. We think of sin as something terrible that other people fall into.
Very seldom do we ourselves sin, because we think it is a series of activities against laws. It’s true that if you break a law, you break a commandment. If you break a commandment, that commandment is the law of God and therefore you have sinned. But that is not what sin means.
Sin is a very interesting word. It really means that you have failed to love. God has given you His love, and you have turned your back on Him. God has given you Jesus, and He becomes a lamb led to the slaughter to show you the depth of God’s love and to help you understand that when we say, “I have sinned,” we have not broken a commandment. Rather, we have broken a promise. We have broken a person. We have nailed Him to the cross.
Sin is a failure to care, a failure to love. It is not meaningful to simply say, I broke the sixth commandment, or the tenth commandment, etc. When you sin, you break a heart, not only the heart of Jesus, but the heart of the person that you have sinned against. This is why it is such an important word.
When Jesus enters the waters, He becomes one with us, walking with us through life, feeling the things we feel and hoping the things we hope. He is every bit a human being. When He does this, He’s coming so that He might take away all sin. For if sin is a sin against the love of God, Jesus redeems us by His great love, not only for God, His father, but also for all of us. It is in the love of Jesus that we are forgiven, for He never held it against us. He never went away and hid, waiting for an apology.
Sometimes we think a confessional is where our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness, however, begins in the heart of Jesus and there is no sin that Jesus Himself does not immediately forgive, because His love is so great. When you go to confession, you come in contact, not with the judgement of God and being forgiven. Instead, you should come to understand that when Jesus offered Himself on the cross for all mankind, the greatest love that a God-made man could offer His father, that all was forgiven to all for all.
This is the message that the gospel teaches us, and this is the message that we often forget. Remember, that when we sin against each other, it is not merely the breaking of a rule, regulation, or law. It is the breaking of another person’s heart. We must realize that Jesus came only to love. That’s why He said, “I have not come to judge, but only to teach you how to love.”
Jesus tells us today that He is the Lamb of God. This means, of course, that He is the shepherd, and we are the lambs. Through Him, we are to become the lambs of God, to become the sons and daughters of God, or as it says in the readings, the children of God. The one thing that God calls us to do each day is to love. Jesus teaches us each day that there is only love and that, if we sin, we take ourselves out of the one thing that is necessary for our heart, soul, and lives: the fullness of God’s love flowing through us into each other.
This is why Jesus came and why today we say with great gratitude, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He takes away everything that stands between us and the love of a loving Father, who has given us Jesus to show the way and, as mentioned in the gospel today, fills us with His Holy Spirit.