Vatican City, 19 January 2014 (VIS) – At midday Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and, before the Marian prayer, he commented on today's Gospel reading in which St. John the Evangelist narrates the encounter between Jesus and the Baptist by the River Jordan. The Baptist sees Jesus move through the crowd and recognises Him as God's envoy, exclaiming, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”.
“The verb translated as 'take away' literally means 'relieve', 'take upon oneself'”, explained the Pontiff. “Jesus came into the world with a precise mission: to free it from the bondage of sin, taking upon himself the guilt of humanity. How? Through love. There is no other way of defeating evil and sin other than through love, which leads to giving one's own life for others. In John the Baptist's account, Jesus has the features of the Servant of the Lord, who 'has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows' unto death on the Cross”.
In the Jordan the Baptist encounters a man “who lines up with the sinners to be baptised, even though he has no need. A man who God has send to the world as a sacrificial lamb. In the New Testament, the word 'lamb' is recurrent, used always with reference to Jesus. This image of the lamb appears surprising; indeed, an animal that is certainly not characterised by strength or robustness takes upon its shoulders such an oppressive burden. The great weight of evil is removed and taken away by a weak and fragile creature, a symbol of obedience, docility and defenceless love, to the point of self-sacrifice. The lamb does not dominate, but instead it is docile; it is peaceful, not aggressive; it does not show its claws or bare its teeth when faced with attackers, but instead suffers and submits. And this is how Jesus is: like a lamb”.
“What does it mean for the Church, for us today, to be disciples of Jesus, lamb of God?” asked Pope Francis. “It is a good task! As Christians we must replace malice with innocence, force with love, pride with humility, and prestige with service. Being disciples of the Lamb means living not like a besieged citadel, but rather as city set on a mountain, open, welcoming and supportive. It does not mean adopting a closed attitude, but rather proposing the Gospel to all, showing by the witness of our lives that following Jesus makes us freer and more joyful”.