On this second Sunday in Ordinary Time, let us reflect on the words of Pope Francis from his Angelus Address on January 19, 2014.
Today, the Gospel presents to us the scene of the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the Jordan River. The narrator is the eye witness, John the Evangelist, who, before he was a disciple of Jesus was a disciple of the Baptist, together with his brother James, with Simon and Andrew, all are from Galilee, all are fisherman. So, John the Baptist sees Jesus, who steps forward from the crowd and, inspired from above, sees in Jesus the one sent by God. For this reason, he points him out with these words: “Behold the lamb of God, he who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The word that is translated with “take away” literally means “to relieve,” “to take upon oneself.” Jesus has come into the world with a precise mission: to free it from the slavery of sin, taking humanity’s faults upon himself. In what way? By loving. There is no other way to defeat evil and sin than with the love that moves one to give the gift of his life for others. In the testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus is given the traits of the Servant of the Lord, who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), to the point of dying on the cross. He is the true Passover lamb, who immerses himself in the river of our sin, to purify us.
The Baptist sees before him a man who gets in line with sinners to be baptized even though he does not need to. He is the man who God sent into the world as the sacrificial lamb. The word “lamb” appears several times in the New Testament and always in reference to Jesus. This image of the lamb might surprise us: an animal that is certainly not characterized by its strength and hardiness takes upon himself such an oppressive weight. The enormous mass of evil is removed and taken away by a weak and fragile creature, who is a symbol of obedience, docility and defenseless love, who goes to the point of sacrificing himself. The lamb is not an oppressor but is docile; he is not aggressive but peaceful; he does not show his claws or teeth in the face of an attack, but endures it and is submissive. And this is how Jesus is! This is how Jesus is! He is like a lamb.
What does it mean for the Church, for us, today to be disciples of Jesus the Lamb of God? It means putting innocence in the place of malice, love in the place of force, humility in the place of pride, service in the place of prestige. It is good work! We Christians must do this: put innocence in the place of malice, love in the place of force, humility in the place of pride, service in the place of prestige. Being disciples of the Lamb means that we must not live like a “city under siege,” but like a city on a hill, open, welcoming, solidary. It means not having an attitude of closedness, but proposing the Gospel to everyone, testifying with our life that following Jesus makes us more free and more joyful.