Sunday, Jan. 19, is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34.

John’s Gospel more than any other sees beyond the words and happenings of Jesus’ life into their eternal meaning. When we read his Gospel, we need to look for that deep spiritual sense.

Today’s passage is no different.

John the Baptist sees Jesus coming and addresses his followers. As he does elsewhere in the Gospel, St. John the Evangelist goes to great length to use the Baptist’s own words to point out that he is not the long-awaited Messiah — only the voice announcing him. There were many in his time, and even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, who would have made him greater than he should have been. Although the last and greatest prophet, he wishes to decrease, to fade away, and he wants to be clear that it is Jesus to whom all of the ancient prophesies have pointed.

The first reading is one such prophesy: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation shall reach to the ends of the earth.”

So John the Baptist draws the attention of his disciples (probably John the Evangelist, among them) to the One who approaches. “Behold,” he says, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

In calling him “Lamb of God,’ he alludes to just how this worldwide salvation will come about: not as a military conquest, but as a sacrificial offering.

“Lamb of God” was a phrase that all of his hearers would recognize. Since the earliest days of the Old Testament, lambs had been sacrificed to God, and the Law required that twice a day a lamb be sacrificed as the price paid for the sins of the people. It was the blood of the lamb marking the doorposts on the first Passover that spared the firstborn of the Hebrews. It was a sign of atonement and liberation.

John the Baptist, as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments, is foretelling the end of the temple sacrifice of the lamb and the final sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

It is significant that this Lamb — perfect and unblemished — is the Lamb of God himself. Only God could provide the Lamb for this final sacrifice who would once and for all expiate the sins of mankind.

Fulton Sheen points out in Life of Christ, “In the Old Testament, when the lambs were sacrificed, some of the blood was sprinkled on the people. When the Lamb of God came to be sacrificed, some asked again for the sprinkling of the blood, in a horribly ironical way!”

His blood be upon us, and our children (Matthew 27:26).

The Precious Blood of the Lamb of God is a source of grace and redemption. Let us never cease to invoke its power and protection, and to call it down on our families, not as a condemnation, but as liberation from the powers of darkness and a seal against sin.

Claire Dwyer blogs at EventheSparrow.com and works for the Avila Foundation from her home in Phoenix,

where she lives with her husband and six children.