Behold the Lamb of God

Photography © by Andy Coan

The Protestant Church is all about the Bible; the Catholic Church is all about the Sacraments.  Right?

Not exactly.  When it comes to personal Bible reading, Protestants often put Catholics to shame.  But as far as Sunday worship goes, it is hard to find a more biblical service than the Mass. The readings are awesome enough, but even the prayers of the Mass are chock full of Scripture.  Many lines spoken by priest and people are, in fact, direct quotes from the Bible.  Consider, for example, what the priest says just before communion: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  That’s a direct quote from John 1:29 where John the Baptist says this as he points out Jesus to his disciples.

We are so used to calling Jesus the Lamb of God that we can miss the jolt that this must have given the first people who heard it.

Most Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be the Lion of Judah, a new David who would drive out the Romans through military heroism.  It hadn’t occurred to them that the Messiah would be a Lamb.

Lambs are not exactly known for their prowess in battle. They don’t kill; they die.  They were, in fact, sacrificed daily in the Jewish temple as an act of worship to God.

But there was a special sacrifice that happened every year in which lambs were featured most predominantly.  It was the central celebration of the Jewish Year–Passover.  This was the yearly remembrance of the greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament, the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian slavery.  The final plague that would bring Pharaoh to his knees and the Israelites to freedom was the angel of death “passing over” Egypt to take the lives of Egypt’s most precious resource . . . their first-born sons.

What was to prevent the Israelites from suffering the same fate?  The sacrifice of a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish.  This Lamb was a substitute for the first-born of the Israelite family that offered the sacrifice.  And a costly offering this was, since the wealth of a family was counted in terms of its animals.

The blood of the Lamb was to be smeared on the doorpost of the house and the family was to eat  the flesh of this sacrificial animal in a special ritual meal.

We all know the end of that story.  Pharaoh let the Israelites go, and the Israelites celebrated this event each year, with hundreds of thousands of Jews coming to Jerusalem to sacrifice their lambs and to eat the Passover supper in the Holy City.

It was no accident that Jesus was arrested and put to death during Passover.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes his last at the very same moment that the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple.  The same Gospel is the only one to point out that Jesus legs weren’t broken to make sure he was dead, as was customary in crucifixions.  Rather, the Romans employed an alternate verification method – a lance thrust to the heart (John 19:32).  Why does John take pains to emphasize this?  Because Scripture stipulates that no bone of the Passover Lamb could be broken (Ex 12:46).

All the words and events of the Old Covenant had great value, meaning and dignity in and of themselves.  But they also pointed forward to a greater covenant, to a person who was the Word made flesh, to a Lamb who saved Israel from a deeper slavery than Pharaoh’s, to an event that would be the culminating moment in human history.  The Word came as a spotless Lamb to offer the perfect sacrifice of love that would outweigh all human evil and therefore take away all sins.  The Shepherd offered his blood for our sins and his body as our new Passover meal, to give his sheep the strength to become lambs like him who offer their lives for the life of the world (Romans 12:2).Be


Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) — Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; First Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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1 Comment

  1. forever enjoy reading stories of the Old Testament and trying to fit them into my daily life.

    the Holy Bible: The Holy Bible Douay Confreternity, as shown in the photo by Andy Coan, what other info do i need to purchase that partucular copy. as shown, always with thanks, richard

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