19 January – Behold, the Lamb of God appears among the weak

This image is taken from the Blessed Sacrament chapel at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist is inviting us to look at Jesus, look closely. He calls Jesus the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’. During each Mass before we receive Holy Communion we say these words and today we are invited to meditate on them more closely. What does it mean? The lamb is one who is sacrificed… the sins of the world are many, broken relationships with one another at every turn. The image of the Lamb to denote Christ has been a feature of Christian art from its earliest days, appearing in catacombs, frescoes and mosaics across the Christian world. Readers of the Gospel of John made associations between Jesus (identified by John the Baptist as the lamb) and the Passover lamb.

Today we are asked to think especially of refugees and migrants and the sins committed against them. The treatment of these groups who are marginalised, exiled from their homes due to war, famine, drought, unemployment is often unjust and is part of what Pope Francis refers to as a culture of ‘slave labour’. These outcast groups are frequently treated with disrespect, racism, condemnation and resentment. How can we reconcile these situations?

Pope Francis’ message for today may guide us closer to understanding the message of John the Baptist in the Gospel:

‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity… A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.’

In the marginalised can we see Jesus coming towards us and say: ‘Look, there is the lamb of God’?

(With thanks to Iain Hull and “Intercom”, January 2014