“Behold, the Lamb of God.” This is a comforting phrase. It may be the most comforting verse in Scripture, although that is saying a lot. Why is it comforting? Because it speaks to our heart. St. Thomas Aquinas, in many ways, tells us that human nature has an intrinsic desire for God. He derives this from his theology of the soul. Of the noble faculties of the soul is the intellect, and the will. The intellect is constantly seeking what is true and the will is constantly seeking what is good. Together they (we) respond to those things that match this desire in both ways. When something is true, it isn’t necessarily good, but when something is good I can’t imagine it not being true.
One could say that the perceived love that someone has for you is good, but it could turn out to be a false perception. Even so, initially it is good because it affects you toward the good. So yes, something could be good, at least temporarily, without being true. When something is both actually true and actually good in itself, our heart, our soul responds by leaning toward it, by seeking it. So when we hear the proclamation “Behold the Lamb of God,” our heart responds with warmth and affection.
In today’s Gospel there are four phrases that warrant our reflection on how they were received by the disciples and correspondingly how we receive them. The first, “Behold the Lamb of God” then “What are you looking for?”; “Come and you will see,” and finally “We have found the Messiah.” These phrases in succession depict the progression of discipleship.
Following up on the above, when the disciples hear John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God,” there is no hesitation. There is no discussion or consideration of what it means or how they were to respond. Instead the Gospel says, “the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” Their immediate response was triggered by their heart. Being faithful Jews they were aware of the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Proclaiming Jesus as the Lamb of God connected two articles of the Jewish faith, the coming of the Messiah and a lamb as the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. The Messiah as the long-awaited savior of Israel and the ritual sacrifices were not thought of as the being synonymous. But now, hearing Jesus proclaimed as the Lamb of God, to their hearts it meant salvation through the forgiveness of sins. This caused their immediate response because it fulfilled the ultimate desire of their heart. Their soul responded to this as true and good.
For us it is the same. Through catechesis and devotion we already know that Jesus is the our Savior and through the Mercy of God, He offers us forgiveness of our sins. In hearing this wonderful phrase, “Behold the Lamb of God,” whether during Mass or in reading the Gospel, it is a reminder to us and a refreshment to our soul that he is the fulfillment of the desire of our heart. We respond as they did, by turning toward Jesus and following Him as Christian disciples.
What are you looking for?
This is a question that we know Jesus knew the answer to. It brings to mind another question from Scripture. In Genesis, when God returns to the garden after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, He asks Adam, “Where are you?” With this question God is calling Adam to consider what his relationship to God is now. “Where are you,” what is the situation that you find yourself in now? Likewise when Jesus asks the two disciples “What are you looking for?” He is bringing to their awareness that He is what they are looking for.
With this question Jesus connects the response or their heart to their consciousness. He is saying, “what is the situation you find yourself in now?” Consideration of their new situation begins their discipleship: to learn from the Master and to follow Him.
Likewise, this Gospel reminds us that we are to make every effort to learn from Jesus through prayer and devotion, through the sacraments and further catechesis and adult formation. And the more we learn about Him and His promise of salvation, the more we want to follow Him in his mission in acclaiming salvation to others. We evangelize, not only by telling others about Christ in order that they might make a rational decision to become Christian or a better Christian, but to bring them to a closer relationship with Christ, through an awareness of Christ as the fulfillment of their heart’s desire.
Come and you will see.
In response to the disciples’ question, “Where are you staying?” Jesus says, “Come and you will see.” He is not saying merely come and you will see where I am staying; He is saying by following Him “they will see.” Their eyes will be opened to who He is and what His mission is. Although they may not have realized the essence of the question at that moment, soon after their brief time with Jesus (“they stayed with Him that day”), they began “to see” what He is all about and what their role will become as His disciple.
We, as Christians, follow Him and our role as disciples becomes more clear, we “come and see” along the way of our lives as Christians who He is and what our participation is in His mission.
We have found the Messiah
Although the disciples call out to Him as “Rabbi” they “come to see” that He is more than that. After they spend time with Him, their hearts move them out to find others and tell them the good news. Andrew went to Simon, but he did not say, “We have found a new Rabbi”; he went to Simon to reveal to him that they had found “what they were looking for.”
When we have been told who Christ is through our catechesis and sacramental life, the response of our heart is to tell others about Christ and His promise of salvation. The ultimate reality of this goes beyond a proclamation of liberation from the troubles of this life. Jesus does not promise prosperity and an easy life, He says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage; I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) Elsewhere He says, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)
As Christians on a mission, we have been hated by the world for 2000 years. Persecution and martyrdom are part of the package. Rather, Jesus gives us the good news when He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” No, our salvation is not a worldly liberation, but for us who have “faith in God,” and “also faith in [Christ],” as Christians our salvation is to have a dwelling place in the Father’s house. Just as Jesus says to Pilate, “My Kingdom does not belong to this world,” (John 18:36) likewise neither does the Father’s house, nor our salvation.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world, Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”BACK TO LIST