An Easter lamb photographed in the Welsh Hills on Easter Monday

An Easter lamb photographed in the Welsh Hills on Easter Monday

Behold the Lamb of God: Jesus is given this title, as we all know.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth”. (Isaiah 53: 7) The phrase “straightforward and trusting” might be used to describe this sacrificial lamb.

Jesus is described in the Didache, a very early Christian text dating from about 90AD, as a servant or as a child, depending on the translation. He is not referred to as King of Kings or Lord of Lords as in the Apocalypse. He is both of course; I would like to focus here on the child or the servant.

How easy to be sentimental when considering such a beautiful creature as an innocent lamb. I do not think that either Jesus or Mary could be considered sentimental.   Their daily lives would have been hard and without any of the luxuries we take for granted, though they would for sure understand sentimentality. They never down played love; it is central to the teaching of Jesus which includes sentimental feelings. They would not however allow love to degenerate into sentiment alone.  As one dying lady put it with regard to her imminent death from terminal cancer: “I would not go away to be alone in my favourite place when death approached, but I would be happy for my husband and those I loved to be with me, just as Mary stood at the cross of her dying son out of love;” bravery on all sides, the dying and those who accompany the dying.

To be as straightforward in our society as Jesus the Lamb of God, to follow his example, to know he is with us, is a huge challenge in present-day Britain.

There is a profound conflict in our society that encourages people to dismiss Christians who actually believe in the presence of Christ in them and among them as the most important thing in life. There would be plenty who would sneer if prominent members of society actually prayed together. Our TV interviewers and clever people prize sophistication, the withholding of judgement regarding others’ behaviour, irony and detachment. To pray or to declare strong belief in God is to be aligned with the intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward.  Trusting faith in His Father, however, was at the very heart of Jesus, and this was expressed in deeds such as constant prayer and speaking out boldly against anything that offended against the truth – he was not concerned with his “image” or what others thought of Him – He had no will other than to obey the Father. He would certainly have found  words, probably very strong ones, to speak out about “political correctness”, just as he described those who were whited sepulchres, those who bind others down and do not raise a finger to release them from their burdens or confusions. He was no respecter of persons.

There is a wealth of prejudice about Christians by the politically correct, and it is taken up even among those who think of themselves as Catholics. If I promote clear Catholic teaching, and believe in it, including the redemptive value of the cross of Jesus, I might be accused of advocating pain and suffering for its own sake. If I say that the worshipping of God together with others especially on Sundays is essential, I am told I ignore the good living Christian values of those who never darken the Church door. If I say I am dubious about the impact on society of politically correct moral values, like the whole-hearted acceptance of practising homosexuals or lesbians, the tragedy of easily available abortions, the degrading of human beings through using each other for easy sex, I can be looked upon as narrow-minded, not really of this world. If I say that I value obedience to those who represent Christ in my life, especially in the Church and its teaching, I am looked upon as a person who has lost his senses.  We need to consider whether we should be speaking out more, just as Jesus did, not in a way that takes the moral high ground or judges others, but which proclaims unambiguously the truth of the Gospel values Jesus gave us. This is not easy – it is much more convenient to swim with the current.

Lamb looking for its mother and security
An Easter lamb on the North Welsh hills seeking the security of its mother.

God, through the events of my life, has helped me to stay warm and secure in my faith in the insecure confusion and the many challenges that afflict a practising Catholic in today’s church and world. That does not mean that each day I do not have to make important choices about how to avoid the traps that take away the peace that the Lamb of God has won for me. The empty values of the world enter deeply into those who belong to the church, including into myself. We are all infected by them.

It goes back to straightforward things. Firstly not to tolerate in myself a double life in any way, and if I slip a bit to return as soon as possible to the inner truth in myself and to God; secondly to place trust and faith in God; and if that is difficult for any reader, speak to somebody who you admire and trust who does seem to know God and his love and learn about God’s love that evokes trust. Or read the life story of such a person.

If you have the misfortune to be at the end of your tether, convinced there is no way out of your own predicament, then realise only a superior power can help you out of it, and search for an appropriate way of discovering that superior power. Above all we must pray and not give up. Pray even when it seems utterly pointless. We have God’s absolute assurance, as our loving Father, that we will find Him.

For me it comes back to the straightforward and trusting Lamb of God. God does help me in the serious difficulties I face as a priest and a monk. He truly understands the complicated circumstances of the lives of each one and gives even me some understanding within messy situations. He is with me if I allow him to be.

In Him are all those who have faithfully followed the Lamb of God, among them friends and family. After all – what is Holiness? We cannot acquire it and we are holy only insofar as we come into God’s presence and “atmosphere” and place the whole burden of our lives onto Him.  Then Jesus will truly tell us how to act, what to say and how to say it.

“Thanks be to thee Holy Father, for thy sacred Name which thou has caused to dwell in our hearts and for the knowledge and faith and everlasting life which thou has revealed to us through thy child Jesus”   The Didache (paragraph 9)

Fr. Jonathan