By Pastor Julian Harris
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.’ (John 1:29)
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
THE LAMB OF GOD
St. John’s is the Gospel of Sacramental Signs and wonders that invites us to come and see and believe in Jesus Christ. Come to Mass, see the sacrificial victim lifted up, believe Christ is truly present:
Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty, from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and
the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
(First Eucharistic Prayer: The Roman Canon)
St. John the Baptist hails Jesus as the Lamb of God. John 1:29 and John 1:36, it is referring to Him as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin. Jesus Christ is both High Priest and the Victim (Lamb) of Sacrifice. He offers Himself to His Father as the spotless, sinless Victim on the altar of the Cross as the perfect, acceptable Sacrifice in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, your sins, my sins to all who believe in Him as Savior and Lord. This is the heart of the Catholic Faith—the Eucharistic Heart of the Church.
THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
We have many names for the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper, to name a few. Eucharist is a Greek word that means thanksgiving. Mass means the entire worship that includes Holy Communion. Holy Communion is the personal act of receiving JESUS. The Lord’s Supper is the term used most often by non-Catholic Christians.
The sign of the Eucharist is the bread and the wine mixed with water. We call this small, thin wafer of bread the host. The cup we drink from is called the chalice.
JESUS spoke the words of institution (when He created the Eucharist) in the Upper Room, where He gathered His disciples to share the Passover Meal. It was the night that He was betrayed by one of those at the table, Judas Iscariot. JESUS established this Meal as a permanent promise of God to us. The words of the Eucharist are directly from JESUS, in this example, from Matthew 26:26-28:
While they were eating [at Supper], Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks [Eucharist], He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying,
‘Take and eat; this is my body.’
Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying,
Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’
You can hear the Mass and the words the priest or bishop speaks at the moment when the signs of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a miracle moment. The Church has a word for this: Transubstantiation, when the substance, bread, becomes Flesh and the substance, wine/water, becomes Blood. JESUS said:
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:55)
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the center of our Catholic Faith. The Eucharist defines us and makes us The Church. Many non-Catholic Christians have the Lord’s Supper; however, most of them do not believe that JESUS means these words in a literal sense, but symbolically. When a person says, You are Superman, or You are an angel, they don’t mean literally that you are Superman or a heavenly creature, but you are like that, have some characteristic like strength or kindness. This is symbolic language. The Eucharist or Lord’s Supper is for them a sign of their own faith, their membership in a Church, their promise to follow Christ, many things, but not a sign of the Real Presence of Christ.
We Catholics accept these words in Faith and believe that JESUS meant what He said: The Bread is My Body; the Chalice holds My Blood. This is so very important, because Our Lord made it possible through the mystery of the Eucharist to be present with us and even in us through HOLY COMMUNION. JESUS promised us that He would be with us for all time, to the very end, to the end of the age. You heard these words above when He told us to baptize. In the Eucharist, JESUS is with us in a very real, personal, humble, loving and powerful way. St. Paul explained to the new Christians living in Corinth:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
JESUS was not crucified at the Last Supper. It was the night before Judas Iscariot, who participated in the Last Supper, betrayed Him. Judas left the room in order to hand over JESUS to the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish Temple and Religion in Jerusalem. JESUS’ body is broken and His blood is poured out on the Cross at a place outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha. The Romans used crucifixion as a punishment for serious crimes and to create fear in the people under their control.
The Eucharist (Last Supper) and the Cross are one. The Eucharist is the Sacrifice of the Cross. In The Eucharist we receive the Grace (Presence) of Christ Who saves us from our sins by His Self-Sacrifice, His Self-Giving on the Cross. St. Peter wrote in The Bible:
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)
Now we can say that the Baptism, the Eucharist and the Cross are one. Baptism frees us from Original Sin and gives us a New Birth and a New Life in Christ. The Eucharist brings us God’s mercy and strength for the journey of life. AMEN.