03 January 2006

The Shepherd and The Lamb

In today's Gospel we hear, once again, the familiar voice of St. John the Baptist pointing us toward Christ. This time, he calls Jesus by that title which we hear every time Mass is celebrated, the Lamb of God. While this is a very familiar image for us today, it was, most likely, a confusing -- if not shocking -- appellation for the people of Jesus' day. It was not at all uncommon for the kings or rulers of the middle east to style themselves as shepherds, implying that their subjects were the sheep and lambs. This title hints at the fact that Jesus himself would be a sacrificial offering, as lambs often were. In addition, however, by calling himself a "Lamb" Jesus allied himself with the people, the subjects, those who were victims of the often-tyrannical local leaders of his day.

We are also familiar with another great title from St. John's Gospel, the Good Shepherd. In addition to being the Lamb -- one with the people whom he came to save, Jesus was also the gentle and loving shepherd who looks out for those who stray and leads all to be refreshed by the psalmist's restful waters.

As we hear today's Gospel, let us be "shocked" by this radical title for Jesus. Let us, with St. John the Baptist, give witness to him by our words and our deeds and, in doing so, may we lead others to join his flock.

"To prepare well for our Savior's coming, we must go to the school of the glorious St. John the Baptist. . . . if he receives us, among his disciples, he will surely place us in the hands of our Savior."
St. Francis de Sales

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