Posted April 19, 2012 in New Millennium:
The Lion and the Lamb

by Fr. David May.

It was late April or early May 1971. The dogwood trees in our city were in full bloom, the sunlight magnified a million times by the white blossoms in all the perfection of a brilliant spring day in Maryland. It was getting harder and harder to concentrate on my courses at Salisbury State.

"I think she used to be a nun," my friend Jim whispered to me during our creative writing class.

"What makes you think that?" I asked.

"There’s something mysterious about her."

"She" was our very attractive creative writing teacher, and the topic today was the value and place of repetition in poetry.

"Let me give you an example," our teacher said. "Listen to this."

She paused. "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

She took a breath. No one stirred. Even the air outside our open classroom windows was in rapt stillness.

"Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

I was noticing again how beautiful she was and how much I enjoyed being in this class. "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace."

The whole class seemed caught up in the beauty and power, the mystique, of those simple (and to any Catholics still going to Mass) familiar phrases.

"I told you she was a nun," my friend confirmed, satisfied.

Did you notice the claim these lines make about the Lamb? Only this Lamb of God has the power to "take away" the sins of the world. No program is proposed for this project, no set of reforming religious ideals. Only the Lamb of God as he is.

During the Easter season we also remember that he is the victorious Lamb, risen from the dead. We first read about him in chapter 5 of the Book of Revelation, where he is also called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah:"

Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain….

He came and received the scroll from the right hand of the One who sat on the throne. When he took it, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.

They sang a new hymn: "Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made of them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Rev 5: 4-10).

How does this victory become effective in us?

There is in this Lamb of God a peace that nothing can shatter, and it is this peace, like an infinite ocean, that absorbs into itself our violence.

By the word "violence," I don’t mean physical aggression only; I mean something broader. All sin is a kind of violence—against oneself, against others, or against God in the form of rebellion.

When we approach Jesus, the Lamb of God, calling on his name in a spirit of faith and supplication, the violence in us diminishes.

He takes it all in, destroying it in his person and returning only love, mercy, forgiveness.

But the key for this to happen in us is a continual relationship with him.

Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, there is in this Lamb another quality: that of a lion. In a most astonishing way, in Christ alone is the prophecy of Isaiah 11 fulfilled about the wolf and the lamb, the calf, lion, and child all living together in perfect harmony.

There is the power and force of a lion in this Lamb: as Lamb he is indeed a victim for our sins, but as Lion he is never victimized. He chooses freely to lay down his life.

Unlike a mute lamb terrified into submissive silence when led to the slaughter, Jesus spoke the truth with courage, and it was in part his very words in their prophetic boldness that led to his death.

Yet he also knew when the time for words was finished and the time for the offering at hand.

Who but the Lamb of God can impart to us the courage to speak the truth with boldness in the face of opposition, misunderstanding or apathy? Who but he can also share with us his compassion for our enemies, and yes, his silence in the face of hatred and rejection?

Who but he understands perfectly the time for speaking and time for silence, holding them in perfect balance as one act of preaching the gospel with his life?

Who but the Lion of Judah, who is also Lamb, can teach and empower us to rebuke Satan with confidence and at the same time offer the other cheek to our enemy?

It is Easter and Christ is truly risen. Not only is he risen from the dead, but he has conquered the world (John 16:33).

How mysterious the ways of God that this conquest has occurred in such a hidden way, in the secret light of that first Easter morning! But those who follow Christ in faith gradually discover that "secret." They learn to recognize in the meekness of a Lamb the future configuration of the whole cosmos.

Nothing can stop that divine plan.


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