JANUARY 3, 2014

JOHN 2:29-3:6 ; JOHN 1:29-34

Both of today's readings are concerned with a topic that has become a matter of wide interest in modern times: the theme of personal identity.  The very first words recorded of John the Baptist take up this subject.   BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD!, John exclaims, when he first sees Jesus coming to him. He then goes on to explain that he realized the true Identity of Jesus by a revelation of the Holy Spirit of God.   It is in the opening chapter of the fourth Gospel that John the Evangelist thus identifies the person who is the protagonist of his book, Jesus the Christ. The Baptist in identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Lamb of God was evoking an image that Isaiah had employed some seven centuries earlier of the mysterious Servant of God who was to suffer on behalf of his people. (53:7).  Jeremiah took up the same designation, applying it to himself: "I am, O Lord, like an innocent lamb led to the slaughter."(LXX 11:19)   This awareness that the man who came to John to be baptized by him belonged to God in an intimate manner was so to suit the further history of Jesus as to continue to characterize him after his death and resurrection.  John, writing from exile at Patmos in the Apocalypse, refers to the glorified Jesus as The Lamb 22 times.   "And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and in the midst of the elders the lamb, standing as if slain." (5:7).  This meek figure was acknowledged as God's son by simple shepherds first, before the wise men who came from afar.  Born poor, he now, however, has now been transfigured in the light of God, even while maintaining continuity with his former vulnerability.  He is in glory, endowed with power and the highest authority of divine stature.  The last image we have of him, in the Apocalypse, identifies him as equal to God, seated with him in glory: "And he showed me the river of living water, brilliant as crystal flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb."   There is but a single throne for the one God, shared by the persons of God and the Lamb for all ages to come.

The passage from 1 John we heard in the first reading presents us with a most apt reflection, stressing a consequence flowing from the witness of the Baptist's identifying the Lord as the Lamb of God.  The apostle John comments in these terms: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  And so we are!" If we are given the surpassing gift of being children of God in all truth, it is a grace obtained for at a great price.  We are privileged to enter into intimate communion with God himself for we have become members of the divine family through the blood of the Lamb of God, who continues to offer himself that we might live in Him with the Father, forever.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger