Imagine you are in heaven. . .
In the Gospel selection of today’s Mass, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him and said “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This sentence from the opening chapter of the Gospel according to John provides a very important reminder of the relation between the liturgy of the Church and the writings of the New Testament. In each celebration of the Eucharist, we are invited to share in the body and blood of Christ with that same Gospel exhortation, “Behold, the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
The additional phrase referring to our privilege of sharing in the supper of the Lamb directs our attention away from the past ministry of Jesus on earth to his glorious reign in heaven. The book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a Lamb “that seemed to have been slain” yet “standing” in the court of God (Revelation 5:6). This image very effectively proclaims the faith of the early church that Jesus of Nazareth who was once crucified is truly risen and exalted in the presence of the heavenly court.
This image of the pierced lamb was often artistically affixed to altars in our church sanctuaries, or in a separate mosaic nearby. In this way, we who share in the sacramental sacrifice of the Eucharist are reminded that while we recall the final supper Jesus shared with his disciples on the eve of his death, we now share the “Lord’s supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20), that is, the supper of the Lamb in glory.
Our imagination can help us visualize that we are really participating in the supper of the Lamb on two levels at once. We celebrate it here in our midst so that this spiritual food might strengthen us for our earthly journey. But we are also conscious of our union with the heavenly court where the communion of saints gathers around the Lamb who was slain that we might some day reign with him for all eternity. The Eucharist itself is the sacred bond uniting heaven and earth.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).