January 15, 2023 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
I am not preaching today, but the following is a homily I delivered on these same readings BACK IN 2020:
Prior to beginning formation as a deacon, I knew very little about the origin of the prayers we use in the celebration of the Mass. I am embarrassed to admit it, but it was not until then that I discovered how many of the prayers are taken directly from scripture.
The more I studied scripture, the more examples I discovered. I love the Mass and I love scripture, so when the two mesh, I get excited. Scripture is the divinely inspired Word of God. God is speaking to us throughout the entire Mass, and we are offered multiple epiphanies as Christ is revealed to us. I find that fascinating and interesting – so now you have to hear about it, as you walk through the richness and beauty of the Mass with me.
Earlier in the Mass, we sang the Gloria, beginning with the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These are the same words the angel used when announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke.
Later, after the offertory gifts are brought forward, the Liturgy of the Eucharistic will begin, at which time we will pray the Sanctus – the Holy, Holy prayer. The origin of that prayer can be found in these words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is full of his glory.”
During the Eucharistic Prayer, Father will recite the words of consecration: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body…
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood…”
These words, of course, echo the words of Jesus in the narratives of the Last Supper found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Those are but a few examples.
We hear another example in our gospel today. The Gospel of John tells us when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Where does the image of Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ come from? This too is grounded in scripture.
In the Book of Exodus, we read about the role of the paschal lamb, whose blood saved the Israelites: “For when the LORD goes by to strike down the Egyptians, seeing the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, the LORD will pass over that door…” The lamb protected the Israelites and saved them.
A suffering servant, led like a lamb to slaughter, is referenced in Isaiah: “Though harshly treated, he submitted; like a lamb led to slaughter…making his life a reparation according to the LORD’s will…” This is the sacrificial lamb.
Jesus is the Lamb of God in that he sacrificed himself for us, paying the ultimate price for our sins. And like the paschal lamb, he protects us and saves us.
With the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God”, Jesus is revealed as the Christ, the one who saves us. Further, the gospel concludes with John the Baptist saying, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
Every time we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, Christ is revealed to us. The entire Communion Rite and the exchange between the celebrant and the faithful is centered on this revelation.
Soon, Father will echo the words of John the Baptist. He will elevate the Body of Christ and proclaim, “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.”
We, the faithful, will acknowledge that we are indeed blessed to receive this gift, despite the fact we are not worthy. We will respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
These words can also be found in scripture. A Roman centurion’s servant was sick. When Jesus offered to go to the centurion’s home to tend to the servant, the centurion said without hesitation, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” What incredible humility and trust!
Will our response to Father’s words offer that same level of humility? That same level of unwavering trust?
Finally, we will come forward to receive this gift. The Communion ministers will say, “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ.” It is not a symbol they are offering, but the True Presence of Christ. It IS the Body of Christ; it IS the Blood of Christ. He is truly present. Christ will be revealed to us once again.
The response of the faithful will be, “Amen.” Simply put, that response means, “It is so” or “I believe.” I like to think of it in even more emphatic terms, with my “Amen” meaning, “I would stake my life on it.” I challenge all of us to say, “Amen” with intentionality, offering not a rote or mechanical response, but one that comes from the heart – one that captures our belief in the Real Presence.
Then we return to our seats and embrace this gift that we were unworthy to receive.
I will share the prayer I say in the quiet that follows Communion. I pray to Jesus: “I know that by saying, Amen, I am saying I believe you are truly present in the Eucharist. Help me to have the courage to take that presence out into the world.”
Or perhaps you prefer the powerful words spoken by the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, perfect for your post-Communion reflection: “I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and God is now my strength!”
Finally, you will hear the words of dismissal, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” These are not words intended to end the Mass; they are words intended to launch our mission for the week. Christ is revealed to us throughout the Mass; we are then charged with going out and revealing Christ to others.