St. John the Baptist had attracted many people by his message of repentance and the need for conversion in preparation for the arrival of Christ. Now as the Lord has entered into the scene, John points his own followers in the direction of Christ. John, having attracted thousands of people now retreats back into obscurity. He has fulfilled his mission, to prepare the way for the Lord.
And this He does through two great sacraments. St. John the Baptist helps us to understand these by identifying Jesus as the” Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In Confession the sins of the repentant are taken away. “It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.” CCC 1423
How does Christ do this? Does He just cover them up, delete them, wash them away? No. He puts them to death. Christ the Good Shepherd took the place of the most vulnerable lamb of the flock and gives His own life in sacrifice for the sins of the world. That sacrificial death is renewed, made present, in an un-bloody way in the Mass we offer to our Heavenly Father. By actively participating in His sacrifice with mind, body and soul, with sorrow for our sins, and repentance from them, our trespasses are forgiven and our life begins anew.
We stand before the altar of God conscious of our “constant need” to be purified of our sins – the purification of our minds (for we carry the memories of bad choices we have made), the purification of our bodies (which too often bear the side affects of our sinful disposition) and the purification of our soul which cries out for union with God and is often ignored. Like the disciples in the Gospel today who left their past associations to follow Christ, we must allow our Lord to point us too in the right direction. And this takes time, thank God.
Even though Jesus is introduced as the Lamb of God, the disciples in the beginning chapters of the Fourth Gospel, at this beginning stage of their journey simply address him as “teacher”. Only a little later, when they are invited into his house, do they recognize him as the Messiah. But it will take the later chapters of their lives when they are introduced to the cross and the resurrection for the disciple to humbly acknowledge Jesus as “my Lord and my God”.
Having left the season of Christmas, the Church calendar today introduces us to the first part of Ordinary Time. It will take us to Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This journey is reflected in the color of green. It announces life, growth, looks forward to spring. It is a color which comes forth after storms and rain. It must mark our own journey of continuing conversion and growth, seeking deeper insight and renewed faith in Jesus Christ through the Church which he has made Holy by his presence in our midst and though the Sacrifice of the Mass. In this great sacrament he takes away the sins of the world, beginning with yours and mine, if we allow him to. Time will tell!