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A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel John 1:29-34

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” John also testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”


In 1994, rock start Rod Stewart drew a world-record crowd of 3.5 million people to a concert on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. When Jesus entered the small town of Bethany he was still unknown and no one came to see him. John the Baptist had to point him out to others, 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'. Jesus' fame would spread and 2,000 years later, huge crowds of 3.2 million would come to see his Vicar on Earth, Pope Francis, and receive his blessing on World Youth Day at the same venue. In today's Gospel, John the Baptist skillfully turned the attention of those sent from Jerusalem to enquire about him. 'There stands among you one unknown to you', John replied, explaining that he was only a voice for the one who was coming after him, the Word Made Flesh - the Lamb of God. According to Jewish tradition the Messiah had to remain hidden until Elijah had anointed him and made him known publicly to Israel. Jesus later explained that this actually transpired, Elijah came in the person of John the Baptist. Before baptising his cousin John was unaware that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. However, he had been given a sign that he would actually see the Spirit come down and rest on Jesus at the Jordan. Then, in the light of the scriptures, he had sensed that he was indeed the Lamb of future atonement, the Servant chosen by God to baptise in the Spirit. 'He is the Son of God' (John 1: 29-34). From the outset in its presentation of Jesus, the fourth Gospel (St. John's) heralds the baptism of death which Jesus must undergo to take away the sins of the world - the fire Jesus had come to kindle on earth (Luke 12: 45-50). This fire Jesus was to bring was truly the fire of love. Pope Francis insists that the only force that can transform us more deeply into one is the force of love. He would also add that nothing weakens us more than love. When we totally give ourselves to others, we destroy all our defences and open ourselves to whatever others can do to us - good or bad. At the same time it leads us to experience the uniqueness of those others and ourselves and create a bond of oneness that cannot be achieved in any other way. He would say, quoting his Jesuit friend Teilhard de Chardin, 'Some day after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then for a second time, we will have discovered fire'.
There are two ways of simplifying our thinking of Jesus Christ. We can either raise Jesus to the highest heaven and proclaim him God, but a God who cannot be reached and whose salvation remains limited to life beyond in eternity. Or we can bring Jesus down to earth and see in him more than a man among men, more as a brother, the Emmanuel God with us. Jesus Christ can neither be bound to earth nor confined to heaven. Whatever our state, we must place Jesus between God and ourselves.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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