Fr Bob Writes – January 15, 2017

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

These familiar words from the liturgy of the mass, said when the priest breaks the host just before communion, are actually taken from John the Baptist, pointing out Jesus in today’s gospel. The breaking of the host symbolizes Jesus offering himself as lambs were offered as sin-offerings in sacrifice at the temple of Jerusalem. The reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God is an echo of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 53, verses 7 and 10 speaking about the “servant of the Lord” who is led to his death like a lamb led to slaughter. In Isaiah the death of the servant is seen as the ultimate offering to take away the sins of mankind. Christians have always seen Jesus’ death on the cross as being an exact fulfilment of the words of Isaiah’s prophecy.

The reference to Jesus being the “Lamb of God” may also be a reference to the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12, just before God is about to strike down the first born sons of the Egyptians, to force the Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go free from their slavery and journey to the Promised Land, Moses is told to instruct the people to Israel to sacrifice a lamb “without blemish.” The blood of the lamb was to be sprinkled around the threshold of the Israelites’ homes, so that the angel of destruction, seeing the blood, would “pass over” the home and not strike down the first born son. Jesus is seen as that lamb, whose blood shed at Calvary, would deliver us from the penalty of hell, because it would wash away our sins. In John’s gospel, Jesus actually dies at the very hour (3pm) when the lambs for the Passover would be sacrificed by the priests at the Temple. After that, the cry would be proclaimed throughout the Temple “no more lambs to be sacrificed,” i.e. after 3pm. Jesus’ words on the cross as he dies “It is finished” is a deeper fulfilment of that proclamation, meaning no more sacrifices for sin need to be made, because Jesus, by his death, has made the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. St Peter in his first letter (1:19) expresses all this succinctly when he writes:  “we were ransomed from our sin with the precious blood of Jesus as a spotless unblemished lamb.”

All of this rich imagery from the Old Testament is called to mind, then, when the priests elevates the host during Mass and proclaims the words “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Fr Bob Writes – January 8, 2017

This Sunday is Epiphany Sunday, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem. Here is a commentary by Fr Denny Dempsey on this event

“The Magi were not themselves kings but, rather, a priestly group who sought knowledge from every imaginable source  (the word “magic” is derived from their practices) and the ability to apply that knowledge to predict and prepare for the future. One of those sources of information came from watching the stars. According to the popular cosmology of the time, people believed the earth to be covered by a dome, across which God or the gods caused the heavenly bodies to move in patterns thought to contain coded messages.  Such was the logic behind astrology.

From a science acceptable in our day, astronomers tell us that in 6 B.C. Magi in the region of Assyria or Babylonia would have been able to see Jupiter (which represented royalty) pass through Aries (representative of the Jewish people , perhaps due to their history as shepherds) . The Magi would have interpreted this as a divine sign of the birth of a great Jewish king. On reporting their findings, their own king may have sent them as his representatives bearing gifts, a common way for kings of the past to build alliances and secure peaceful relations.

King Herod ruled as King of Judah from 37 to his death in 4 B.C. Tyrannical and suspicious to the point of paranoia, he had all actual and presumed opposition eliminated including his wife and several other members of his own family. He built fortresses (including Herodium and Masada)  around the country as places he could escape to in case of a popular uprising.  I have read that he had  a list drawn up, naming those most popular in every town and city of Judah with a standing order that they be killed in case of his own death, a unique sort of life insurance policy. His soldiers, however, refused to carry out the order when he did die.  Such a person would be capable of commanding soldiers to kill babies in Bethlehem  on the possibility of one being a future king.   No wonder he and the people of Jerusalem, for different reasons, were troubled at the news brought by the Magi. Placing Jesus’ birth a couple of years prior to Herod’s death (the family was living in Egypt when they heard of the death of King Herod)  would put the birth of Jesus around 6 B.C., which aligns with the appearance of the star.  When the monk Dionysius Exiguus was commissioned by the pope in 525 A.D. to figure out the year Jesus was born and renumber all years accordingly, he was off by those six years, not bad given the information he had to work with. 

Christmas Message from Father Bob – December 25, 2016

”  Jesus has entered our history; he has shared our journey.  He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light.  In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate.  He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it.  He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst…

On this night, let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.  To us the Lord repeats: ”  Do not be afraid! (Luke 2:10).   As the angels said to the Shepherds: ”  Do not be afraid!”    And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid!”     Our Father is patient: he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land.  Jesus is the light who brightens our darkness.  He is mercy: our Father always forgives us.  He is our peace …

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful.  Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus.  My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.”

A Merry Christmas to all our parishioners! 

from Fr Bob, Deacon Louis, Deacon Mark and Lynn