The Isaiah reading sets the scene for the reading from
John’s gospel. This from Isaiah is the second song of four
songs revealing the Suffering Servant. This is the Servant,
the emissary of God through whose suffering would come
salvation for the nation. Well, that’s not the whole truth.
Salvation of the Nation and a gathering of all tribes lost
and dispersed throughout the world was how the descendants
of Abraham would have thought salvation meant. This
suffering servant was of no account according to the
measures of the world. He was poor and reviled, this servant
would be considered worthless. But yet it was through the
suffering of this servant that salvation would come to the
nation. But wait! In this first reading this Sunday, it is
clear that salvation would come to all peoples – not just
the Hebrew peoples. This Suffering person, this Servant of
the Lord would "be a light to the nations that God’s
salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." In the
gospel, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of
God, truly the Suffering Servant of the Isaiah list of four
Why we connect the Servant of Isaiah with Jesus, who John
names the Lamb of God is that the word for Lamb that John
used in the language of Aram is the same word used in the
phrase in Isaiah for Servant. John connects Jesus, the Lamb
of God with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. In the gospel
composed by John the Apostle/Evangelist, the choice of the
Greek word for Lamb was the evangelists way of connecting
Jesus to both the Servant of Isaiah and the lambs sacrificed
each morning and evening as expiation for the sins of the
people. The connection is made all the more clear when the
Baptizer announces to the assembled crowd that Jesus walking
by is indeed the Servant of Isaiah as well as the Lamb to be
sacrificed as expiation for sin. That is, "Behold the Lamb
of God who takes away the sin of the world."
Strange that word, "Sin." Why does the evangelist use the
singular in describing the work and achievement of the Lamb,
the Suffering Servant? Most often we think of sin as a
breaking of a personal relationship with God. Sin, in that
limited way of thinking, is detrimental to our relationship
with our Creator. That "me and God" view of things disallows
how sin is harmful to other persons and to creation. When we
sin, when we miss the standard of being a child of God, we
miss the benchmark of what we are and can be. We, in effect,
harm other persons and creation. God’s wrath is often,
especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, set off by sin. But
it’s not the sinner that is the object of God’s wrath. It’s
the act, the omission, the intention, the deviation from
what God created us to be that arouses the object of God’s
wrath. So, when John writes of sin in the singular, he
summarizes in a single word what’s not right about our
thoughts, our deeds, in what we fail to think and do.
The Lamb of God who takes away the "sin of the world"
reminded the Jews and us as well of the expiatory lamb
sacrificed in the Temple rituals of the Hebrews morning and
night. It is worthy of thought and meditation to realize the
prophet Isaiah’s revelation of the Suffering Servant marks a
huge swing in the understanding how salvation is made
present. Before Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, the great acts
of salvation are connected to leaving – leaving Egypt,
leaving Babylon and the tremendous change from slavery to
freedom. The nation is freed and given a return to what
God’s will considers normal. Yet, here in the poetry, the
songs of Isaiah part two, the change is from release from
effects of sin to retribution for sin, for a removal of the
effects of sin. And this expiation, this salvation comes
from the suffering of the innocent poor. From this it would
seem that the poor among us even in the twenty first century
are the ones whose suffering makes expiation for the sins of
the nation. Consider the suffering of the citizens of
Ukraine, of Sudan, of central America – well, of the poor in
our land of prosperity and freedom. The reading from Isaiah
marks a shift in salvation thinking. Prior to this prophecy
in Isaiah part two salvation of the nation was through a
glorious exodus. That exodus was a huge event. The Suffering
Servant, the Lamb of God of the speech of John the Baptizer,
is new, is available as was the morning and evening
sacrifice in the Temple. We know of the salvation by exodus
from slavery in Egypt led by Moses. We understand the exodus
from the captivity in Babylon enacted by Cyrus the Great of
Persia. Isaiah whose prophecy is during the captivity of
Babylon, makes it clear there is another way to salvation
through the expiatory suffering of innocent poor. In this
theology, the suffering of the poor brings with it a release
from the sin of the world. The innocent poor suffer and, in
their suffering, expiate for the sins of the chosen people.
But it is more than that. In our reading from Isaiah this
Sunday, it is not only the tribes of Jacob and the lost
tribes of the dispersed northern Kingdom. This servant
chosen by God will be made into a light to the nations. And
that is so that the salvation offered by God will reach to
the ends of the earth. This is certainly not to mean that we
should encourage an expansion of the suffering poor. Hardly!
It is the work of the Lamb of God, this Jesus of Nazareth,
who takes away the sin of the world. That’s the objective of
the followers of the Christ. That the sin of the world is
lifted up and away. Sin is to be removed as harm to God’s
creation. That is the result of the coming of the Kingdom of
Another revelation in Isaiah’s four songs is that his
Suffering Servant – the Baptist’s Lamb of God – is that
salvation is not only for the Jews, not only for the
dispersed lost Tribes of the descendants of Jacob, but for
all humanity. No tribe, no race, no language, no gender, no
skin color, no tradition of faith, no diversity of political
structures will exclude any person from this salvation. The
Sin of the world is the Lamb of God is taking away. Not many
understood that salvation by the Servant would be universal.
The episode this Sunday’s gospel is after the Baptism of
Jesus and the descent of the Spirit. This is after the
desert Temptation of Jesus. Jesus had begun to understand
The faith understanding of the Jews as revealed by Isaiah
is that the Servant is alive in all of Israel’s leaders –
Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, wise men, David, and the suffering
exiles. The Baptist would have thought of Jesus as one of
those leaders. All those leaders are connected to this one
purpose. It is a spiraling ascent to the Kingdom of God.
John insists to the crowd coming into the wilderness to
hear him that this Jesus takes away the sin of the World. He
is the innocent victim, the poor Lamb whose work is the
expiation of guilt and responsibility for those who
participated in the sin of the world. The followers of Jesus
share in his mission and ministry of expiation. It is our
responsibility to take away the sin of the word, following
the example of the Lamb of God, Jesus. The sin of the world
has many aspects: poverty is one: racism is one: sexism is
another: violence is a manifestation of sin in the heart:
lust whether after another person or after power, or wealth,
or fame. Sin has many manifestations but one effect. Denial
of the image and likeness in which each person is uniquely
created. It is a disregard for the work of Creation and its
reflection of the Creator.
If Isaiah changes the theology from leaving captivity to
expiation for the sin of the world, then that is our role.
We regain our innocence in the expiatory work and suffering
of this Son of God/Son of Man. We too are to take away the
sin of the world where we are, in the time in which we are
placed. We join the sheepfold of lambs, of servants who
suffer for the sake of salvation. That salvation is for the
world, that manifestation of the amazing God in whose image
we are created.
Behold the Lamb of God, that Suffering Servant revealed
by the prophecies of Isaiah. Defanging the power of sin is
our mission. Our model and our leader is the One who
suffered in innocence to take away the power of sin,
replacing sin’s self-centered destruction with unconditional
love. It’s an awfully big job with which we followers of the
Lamb are assigned. But we are not alone in our struggle.
As we begin this ordinary, ordered time, we have
instruction, encouragement, and grace to successfully be
witnesses to the presence of the Lord, the Suffering
Servant, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Keller with Charlie
THE IDENTITY OF JESUS THEN AND NOW: 2ND SUNDAY A
Who was Jesus Christ? Who is Jesus Christ? These are the
most important questions that we, his friends and followers,
can ask. John the Baptist has answered those questions. In
introducing him to people as their Saviour, John calls Jesus
‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. He
adds: ‘The Spirit of God is on Jesus.’ Let’s focus, then, on
John’s insight into the identity of Jesus by asking a. What
is sin? and b. How does Jesus, the sacrificial lamb given to
us by God for our salvation, remove it and set us free?
‘Sin’ is the word we use for anything that stops us from
staying open to God and God’s loving influence upon us. It’s
about anything dysfunctional, nasty, false, mean, hurtful,
and unloving about us. It shows itself again and again in
jealousy, hatred, hostility, cruelty and revenge, wars, and
class struggles. It is revealed in lies, fraud, and deceit,
as well as in acts of violence, torture, racial prejudice,
Sin, in fact, is the opposite of being friendly, caring,
and helpful, like those generous men, women, and children,
reaching out recently with so much generosity, compassion,
and concern to the victims of the terrible floods, that kept
swamping forests, grasslands, houses, people, livestock and
wildlife, in many regions of Australia.
Some of the sin that afflicts us causes us to hurt others
and, in hurting others to hurt ourselves. We could act in a
kind and helpful way to someone in need, e.g., but we find
it too much trouble and effort. Or we are afraid that others
might sneer at us if we do. So, we let slip the
opportunities that come our way. That is sin, the sin of
We know we should not judge others. But we get some kind
of perverse pleasure in putting others down. This leads us
to slip in that extra anecdote that puts another in a bad
light. That is sin.
We know that certain things we do upset, hurt, and harm
others. But we don’t care, and we keep doing them anyway.
That is wilful, that is sin.
We know that we need space to be alone with God. But we
avoid quiet and silence for prayer. So, we never bother to
ask God what God wants of us or ask God to empower us to do
it. That too is sin.
Until now I’ve been speaking of the kind of sin that is
deliberate and for which we are personally responsible. But
much selfish behaviour comes also from our genes and the
environment around us and for which we are only partly
responsible. This kind of sin includes different sorts of
addictions and compulsions and habits such as too much
gambling, that may drive us towards making wrong choices.
The seagull cannot be blamed for the oil slick that clogs
up its wings and makes it unable to fly. Much sin is, in
fact, partly environmental and hereditary. We call it
‘original sin’ for it comes more from our human condition,
our human origins, and our human situations, than from
malice and fully deliberate bad choices. But it is still sin
and it can entangle, trap, imprison and dominate us just the
This brings us to the second question: How does Jesus
take away both kinds of sin, the deliberate and the
not-so-deliberate? He does it the way we take darkness away
– by turning on the light. He does it the way we take hatred
away – by introducing love. He does it the way we take
loneliness away – by steering us toward good people.
This is not an automatic process. For we can choose to
live in the dark; we can choose to remain isolated; and we
can entertain hatred and resentment. But Jesus has shown us
another way and empowered us to live another way, a
different way, He has baptised us with his own Spirit, the
Holy Spirit. He has poured out on us the fire of God’s love.
Perhaps our awareness of all this will make some
difference to the way we pray those three petitions at Mass,
just before we receive Jesus Christ and others in Holy
Communion. ‘Lamb of God,’ we say to Jesus, God’s sacrificial
Lamb, ‘you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us
... (repeat). Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the
world, grant us peace.’
Gleeson CP" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Year A: 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
"I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven
like a dove and resting on him."
I think I saw that happen once.
When I was at school, there was a boy in my class that
none of us liked. He gossiped. He made up stories about
people. He sucked up to people who were stronger than him.
He bullied people who were weaker than him. He told tales to
the teachers that were mostly untrue and got people into
serious trouble that they did not deserve. But the most
annoying thing about him was that any time you spoke to him,
almost whatever you said to him, even something as harmless
as "hello", he always had a some crude sarcastic remark to
cut you down to size. And when someone does that to you all
the time, pretty soon you start to feel that you don’t want
to speak to them at all.
Then, one day at school, I passed him in the corridor and
said "hello". And he said "hello" back. And not just
"hello", but "HeLLO!" like he was pleased to see me. I was
surprised, but I said nothing and walked on. Later in the
day, a couple of my friends asked me: "Have you noticed
what’s happened to Peter? He’s so strange! He’s completely
And for the next few days, we noticed that he seemed to
have changed completely. He smiled; he was pleasant; he told
dirty jokes. He had a sense of humor He was a pleasure to be
with. We could not understand it. What had happened?
Then after a few days, we found out. One night, I was
walking home and there on the road in front of me was Peter
walking hand in hand with a very nice young lady from the
nearby girls’ school. So his secret was out. And we all
understood exactly what had happened. He was in love.
But, when you’re 17 - or even, I have been told, when
you’re 77 - these things don’t always last. After a few
weeks they split up. And Peter was very upset about it. And
we were pretty sad about it too because we thought, "Oh no,
he’s just going to go back to being the way he was."
But that didn’t happen. Peter’s first experience of love
may not have lasted too long, but its effect was permanent.
It touched him and changed him forever. Even in just a short
time, that girl managed to see something in him – something
to like – and, even more than that, made him see it too. And
make him feel loved in such a way that such a good thing
could never again be unseen. As Graham Greene once put it,
"it is a strange thing to discover and to believe that you
are loved when you know that there is nothing in you for
anybody but a parent or a God to love." [The End Of The
And that released in him the man God created him to be.
That is the gift of the Spirit - to know yourself to be
loved by God and by the people of God and to have released
in you the confidence to face the world and show yourself as
God created you to be. That is what it is to be a child of
God, fully human and fully alive.
Love can be expressed only by those who have experienced
it in their own lives. And for that you have to be loved
first. And you have to be given the God-given grace to love
yourself. And only then can you obey the Lord’s command and
love your neighbour as yourself.
So, Peter taught me something, something I now see every
day in the homeless people I work with. He taught me that
most often when I come across people who are rude, hostile,
aggressive, most often the reason is that they are afraid.
They generally don’t look afraid: they look hostile,
aggressive and potentially violent. But I now see that they
are afraid, not so much of what I or anyone else is going to
do to them, but they are afraid of themselves – or more
accurately, of their failures. Because they do not love
themselves. That is what their experience of life has taught
Homelessness is a disease of relationships. It is what
happens when nobody in the world will give you a bed for the
night. And to get to that point, you have to break a lot of
relationships. And so, my people have discovered that they
are not good at relationships – and they think they are not
good at being human beings.
And so I believe that it is the vocation of the Church to
be the people who can discover the good in all the people to
whom God shall send us and show it to them. It is only when
the Holy Spirit has come down and rested upon you that you
can go and baptise others with that Spirit. That is what I
believe the Christian church exists to do. And that is what
converts people like Peter into being Rocks on which Christ
is building His Kingdom.
I tell you this story today because I actually met up
with Peter a few weeks ago. And, you know the way that there
are some questions that you can ask after a safe (oh dear!)
forty-plus years of water has gone under the bridge that you
couldn’t ask at the time. So I asked him if he still
He suddenly went very still and took a long time to
answer the question. And eventually he said, "Yes, of course
I do. She changed my life. I don’t know where she is now. I
so wish we had kept in touch. Paul would you say a mass for
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit of God’s love may come
down on each like a dove and rest on us."
Let us stand and profess our Faith in the Spirit of God.
O'Reilly SJ <email@example.com>
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections,
and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline is
Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John Boll, OP