Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel* because he has come to his people. Our God has become incarnate, and the God-man has come to His people and set them free. In Jesus, God raised up for us a mighty Savior who was born of the house of his servant David. Finally, what the prophets prophesied, and ages of peoples awaited has come to pass. For His Son has come among us to save us from our enemies. In Jesus is the answer to the promise of mercy and the fulfillment of the covenant made with our father Abraham, a covenant whereby we can worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight, all the days of our lives.
Although he may not have used these exact words, John the Baptist proclaimed this message. Even during his development in the womb he leapt at the presence of Jesus, announcing the promised Messiah. John was the prophet of the Most High who went before the Lord preparing His way. John was the precursor, not of some far-off, distant reality, but of the Messiah who came knocking at the door. John was the one who preached this message of salvation to the people so that through the forgiveness of their sins, they would be able to come to meet their Redeemer.
Finally, the long-awaited Messiah had come into the world and the tender compassion of God was made visible in His Son, the new Sun who was recreating the world like a new dawn from on high, breaking upon the whole world. Once again, as at the first creation, the Light was scattering the darkness and penetrating the hearts of those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death so that men would be able to see clearly and be guided into the way of peace. John had this privileged place in the proclamation of Christ. He was the precursor who stood before the Messiah and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!” John’s cries have echoed throughout history, striking even our ears. And when they do, the mystery of salvation touches our lives like it did for the Israelites 2,000 years ago. The message of John wasn’t just a proclamation for one time, for one people. It continues to be effective as we encounter this mystery at each and every Mass:
Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
And when we hear these words today, what do we see? The Body and Blood of Christ sacramentally present before us. The Lamb of God has come among men once again. This time, though, He has not come to our fathers, but rather to us. He has come to set us free and save us from our enemies. In His compassion, He has come to be with us so that we might come to the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. He has come among us as a rising Sun that continues to dawn in our lives, scattering the darkness of our sins, and guiding us into the way of peace.
Lord…only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
* All phrases in italics come from the Benedictus, Zechariah’s prayer upon the naming of John the Baptist. See Lk 1:68-79.
Image: Artemisia Gentieschi, The Birth of John the Baptist