Bishop Peter Jugis: Behold the Lamb of God: Behold the sacrifice of Christ
"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." With these words, the priest at every Mass calls us to fix our attention on Jesus as we prepare to receive Him in Holy Communion.
With these words, "Behold the Lamb of God," we also fix our attention this year on the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist as we prepare to celebrate our Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. The theme of our Congress is: "Behold the Lamb of God." I look forward to welcoming you to the Congress, Sept. 21 and 22, at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The words, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world," were first spoken by St. John the Baptist in reference to Jesus (Jn 1:29). But why did St. John use the curious term "Lamb" to refer to a grown man? By calling Jesus the "Lamb of God," St. John pointed to Jesus' mission as the suffering Servant who offers His life as a sacrifice for our sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that at His baptism, Jesus inaugurated His mission as the Lamb of God to take away our sins: "The baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.' Already He is anticipating the 'baptism' of His bloody death. Already He is coming to 'fulfill all righteousness,' that is, He is submitting Himself entirely to His Father's will: out of love He consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins." (CCC 536).
The word "Lamb" entails the notion of sacrifice. In Old Testament times, Moses decreed that a lamb be sacrificed each year at Passover. Jesus was crucified at Passover, and thus He took His place as the true Passover lamb par excellence. St. Peter refers to Jesus as the spotless, unblemished lamb: "You were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb." (1 Pt 1:18-19). St. Paul also refers to Jesus as the paschal lamb: "Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor 5:7).
The invitation by the priest at Mass to "Behold the Lamb of God" is an invitation to behold the Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. It is an invitation to acknowledge the sacrifice. The Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ's body and blood makes present the sacrifice that Christ offered on Calvary. At Mass we offer to the Father in heaven "this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim," "a holy sacrifice," as we pray in Eucharistic Prayer I. Out of love for us the Lamb of God lays down His life, and offers Himself to us at Mass to accomplish the work of our redemption.
As we prepare to celebrate this year's Eucharistic Congress, we look once again to Jesus. Let us behold Him, the Lamb of God, who will walk with us in the Eucharistic Procession, be adored at the Holy Hour Exposition and Benediction, and be received as our nourishment in Holy Communion at Mass.
How are we to celebrate the Eucharistic Congress? In a spirit of joy! The Alleluia verse for Easter Sunday invites us always to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice with joy: "Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed; let us then feast with joy in the Lord." So also at the Eucharistic Congress let us feast with joy on the Lord, the holy Lamb of God.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis leads the Diocese of Charlotte.