How to understand the privileged times in which we are living
In last week’s feast of the Baptism of Jesus we had themes of the One of great power and favour; but also the One who would immerse Himself fully in our human condition, take on the effects of sin and become the servant of all to lead all who would follow to salvation.
In John’s Gospel the theology is similar: Jesus is the One on whom the Spirit rests and the Lamb for slaughter, sacrificed for sin. John’s theology is deeper, and because it’s deeper he has made symbolic the Person and actions of the Lord. This allows us to know in a more crystallised way who is this Jesus Who offers His life in sacrifice to take away sin and to make a new covenant between man and God.
And there’s certain themes in John. The Jews had a blood ritual of sacrificing lambs. John understands Jesus’ death in terms of that Passover sacrifice. Instead of lambs being slaughtered as a sin offering Jesus was. Hence John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God offered in Sacrifice once and for all (c.f., Hebrews 10:10).
The curiosity is that the Church takes Jesus’ words “do this in memory of me” to be a command to perpetuate the Lord’s Sacrifice. The logic is that what happened once and for all must be applied through time. Fulfilling the Lord’s command the one Sacrifice of the Lamb is perpetuated and applied every time we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.
This is consistent with what we see in the symbolism in the book of Revelation. Reading the Apocalypse we have this vision of the victory of the slain Lamb (5:6). To share this victory in heaven with his Body on earth, He unrolls a scroll just like unwrapping a present. As He does this the chorus in heaven is, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5: 10).
What is going on is that Jesus is dispensing the fruits of His Sacrifice over time to the members of His Body. The beautiful thing is that just as the Spirit came upon Jesus at His Baptism — which we heard in today’s Gospel, the Spirit comes upon the Church every time it celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is the source of every grace because every time the Sacrifice is celebrated the Church once again receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. And this is given to complete its mission and reign on earth as the Lamb reigns in heaven.
What is this mission? The Church must undergo its own Passover. The Catechism says “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through [its] final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven” (677).
What we see in the world and what we are experiencing in our Church is simply the progressive triumph of the Church that will achieve victory through the upcoming Passover. The Church, the Body of Christ, is about to follow the Lord in His death and Resurrection. Only then will she be triumphant and be reborn. Only then will the new era begin and the new covenant take full effect. Hopefully, this reflection will help you understand the privileged times in which we are living.