The Immaculate Lamb of God

Jesus Christ is the true victim who takes away all the sins of the world. "He is the Immaculate Lamb of God, sacrificed on the Cross during the Paschal season. He is the true priest consecrated by God, and as such has offered himself up as a Victim to the Father in an odor of sweetness. He is the High Priest who once a year enters alone into the Holy of Holies to plead not only for his own people, but for the salvation of all peoples who believe in him. And this Christ truly did, dying once for the entire human race until the end of time." ("On the Passion of Christ," Thomas À. Kempis. © 2004, Ignatius Press)

The image of the lamb has always been used, particularly on chalices, stoneware, in altar stones, floor tiles in churches, and on stained glass windows, to remind us of Christ's purity of all sin. By His own words, in Scripture, Jesus is the good Shepherd, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep." - John 10:11. Shepherds are known to have a very close relationship to their sheep and will do everything to find a lost one, to bring it back to the main herd. That is what Jesus does, He seeks us out to guide us gently back to some activity which benefits us, and which brings us and Him in a closer relationship.

"In 1 Cor 5:7, Paul calls Jesus "our Passover" (Gk. pascha) which is rendered "Paschal Lamb" in some English translations. The expression "Lamb of God" (amnos tou theou) is used only in John 1:29, 36, as John the Baptist points to Jesus (cf. Acts 8:32; 1 Pet 1:19). This image became much more popular in later Christian art and in the celebration of the Eucharist. In John it is related to the detail that Jesus' death occurs at the very same time that the Passover lambs were slaughtered in the Jerusalem Temple (John 19:28-42 - on the "Day of Preparation"), so Jesus himself replaces the sacrificial lambs, whose blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins in the Jewish sacrificial system. The "lamb (arnion) standing as if it had been slain" is also prominent in the Book of Revelation (5:6, and 30 times total)." © Christological Titles in the New Testament by Fr. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

We read in Hebrews 4:15, "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." - which is popularly adapted to: 'He is like us in everything except sin.' The fact is that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not succumb to sin. The human race is the heir of Adam and Eve's original sin. People who hold the Lord dear will strive to sin no more, or at least on fewer occasions.

As we meditate on these things during this Holy Week, let us really try to focus on His Passion, the reasons why Our Lord gives His life for all of us, his followers.

Peace and all Good!

Fred Schaeffer, SFO
Holy Thursday 2011

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