Saturday, January 18, 2014


Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 19, 2014 - Year A


The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

The Efficacious Blood of Christ

Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, in chorus with his recent predecessors, has spoken of a fresh wind of the Spirit needed in the Church. We hear of the promise of a New Springtime and a New Evangelization - for the Church itself to be evangelized in order to fulfill its missionary calling. To make this a bit more personal, every one is in need of the fresh breezes of the Holy Spirit to bring me and you back to our First Love; knowing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.

Annually in Israel, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, taking the blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. (Hebrews 9:7) This ritual is outlined in great detail in Leviticus 16. Aaron, the High Priest, offers first the blood of a bull for himself and his household. He brings incense which covers the Mercy Seat like a cloud. The blood of the bull he sprinkles on the Mercy Seat seven times with his finger. He additionally takes two goats. One goat is ritually sent out into the wilderness symbolizing the removal of sin from the nation. The other goat is sacrificed for the people and its blood is sprinkled on and around the Mercy Seat. 

This ritual of repentance and renewal of the people in their covenant with God was very important. However, all of the daily sacrifices culminating in the of Day of Atonement could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. It was not efficacious. (Hebrews 9:9) It did, however, contain the promise of a new reformation; a time in the future; the promise of a Savior who would be the mediator of a new covenant and whose blood speaks of better things. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)

Called to be Holy

Everyone in Christ is called to be holy; to serve the living God. We struggle with this. And that's good. Only Jesus is without blemish; he is like us in every way except sin. It is his life and love that relieves our conscience from its selfish darkness. This is possible because of the superior blood of Jesus, his very life, that brings us to the throne of Grace. Before the throne of Grace we do not stand condemned but rather find there help for the dead weight in our lives and the sins that cling so readily to us.

So let us remember that God has not called us to be holiness inspectors. In confession we confess our sins, not the sins of our spouse or children or boss. We come to God for the reconciliation we need. And God through the power of his grace lifts us up to where we belong. 

For these past 2,014 years, Jesus has appeared in the presence of God on our behalf. Unlike the high priest of the old covenant, Jesus does not enter yearly the Holy Place with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he as appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:25-26)

There is power in the blood of the Lamb. It's strength and power saves us and brings us into that Love that covers a multitude of sins. And for us will he appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Holiness, therefore, is not about our strength or power, but it's all about Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin. (Hebrews 9:27)

What Can Make us Whole Again and Again?

Is there any sin that Jesus cannot take away? I heard you. I hope not too. And in today's Gospel, the Good News is that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away sin; all sin. We say it three times at every Mass:

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; grant us peace.

That means adultery is not the unforgivable sin. It means baptism is a means of grace for every baby; even babies born of unwedded parents. It means that women walking out of an abortion mill have a Savior. It means that the lost are the ones Jesus came to seek and to save. It means that our sons and daughters caught up in the death of drugs and drug wars are not outside of God's love. It means that grace is greater than all of our sin. How is that possible? Because it is amazing grace the Church embraces and dispenses and celebrates in her Sacraments. Therefore, no one should ever find among us the door closed to Christ. No one must ever walk away and say, "They wouldn't let me in; they wouldn't make me whole again." 

In defense of God's holiness and righteousness we might assert, "But, what about sin?" 

Answer: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!


Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:

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