On the roof of a Catholic Church in Werden, Germany, one can see the stone carving of a lamb. There is a story behind that stone. A man was working on the roof of this church when his safety rope broke and he pitched headlong into the churchyard below. The yard was cluttered with huge stones. But the man was not hurt seriously. Between two of the blocks a lamb was nibbling grass. The man fell on the lamb, crushing it to death, and breaking what would have been a fatal fall.
In gratitude that workman carved a lamb out of a stone and placed it on the roof. It was a gracious way of expressing his thanks to the dumb animal that had unknowingly saved his life.
Much deeper and more meaningful is our gratitude to Jesus, the Lamb of God, for saving us from the eternally fatal fall from grace. Willingly and lovingly Christ gave His life that we might live. That is what St. John is talking about when he calls out in today's Good News: "Behold, the Lamb of god, who takes away the sin of the world."
His hearers could understand, because in the Old Testament lambs were frequently used in sacrifice. They were figures of Jesus Christ who was to take away all the sins of all the world. Calling Christ a Lamb expresses the fact that He is the One to be sacrificed, the One who would reconcile God with man, a theme of this Holy Year.
These figures of the Old Law were fulfilled in the New. Not only in today's Good News is Christ called a Lamb. St. Peter also speaks of Christ as a Lamb (1 Peter 1:19). In the Apocalypse St. John calls the Son of God a Lamb at least twenty-seven times. He points Christ out as the Lamb that was slain for all the sins of men of all tribes and nations. He also emphasized the truth that this Lamb is the true Son of God, that He strengthens His followers, that He conquers Satan.
Ever since Scripture times the Catholic Church has pictured Christ as a Lamb, especially in the catacombs and the great basilicas of Rome. A lamb is also noted for its innocence, its meekness, its patience, its purity, precious qualities of Christ, the Lamb without stain.
No wonder we followers of Christ constantly call upon Him under the sweet and simple title - Lamb of God. In a few moments, just before Communion, we will sing out: "Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us." Sing to Him with all your heart.
That workman in Werden, Germany, carved a grateful memorial to the lamb that had unwittingly saved his life. How much more grateful we should be as we offer Mass, the living memorial to the Lamb who willingly and lovingly gave His all for you and me. God bless you.