Pope John Paul I: An Ordination Card from 1935
NOTE: We are, “mixing” image and message in this post: the artifact is an image of the Good Shepherd, while the commentary involves the reasons why Jesus is called the Lamb of God.
It is fitting that the ordination card of Pope John Paul I contains the Good Shepherd.
And the lambs!
On July 7, 1935, Albino Luciani was ordained to the priesthood, the first step on what was to culminate in his 1978 election as our Holy Father, Pope John Paul I. His pontificate lasted a mere 33 days. Since he was not even considered to be papabile, not many items belonging to or associated with him are often available for purchase, and they are quite rare.
The artifact presented here is his ordination card. Quite typically, the young priest chooses an image from the gospels. In this case, Luciani chose the image of the Good Shepherd. On the bottom of the card, it reads, in Latin, “I am the good shepherd.”
On the reverse side, is, first, an excerpt from Psalm 115 (“What will I render to the Lord for all he has given me?”), and, second, information about the offering of his first Mass, said in gratitude to God and for the consolation of all who attended it.
It ends with his new title, Don Albino Luciani, “new priest.”
There is a cause for the canonization of Pope John Paul I, making the acquisition of his ordination card even more valuable, spiritually.
Why Is Jesus Called the Lamb of God?
Father Richard Kunst
People compare themselves and others to animals all the time. Different animals have different traits that we often apply to a person. It could be someone has the memory of an elephant or the speed of a cheetah. They might be able to swim like a fish or, as a famous boxer once said, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
God the Son, the second person of the trinity, is also called and compared to a particular animal: Jesus is a lamb. And sometimes, as in the book of Revelation, he is even called a dead lamb.
If you and I were to make up our own religion with our own gods fashioned after an animal, I suspect we would not pick the lamb. What is so awe-inspiring about a white, fluffy, four-legged animal that seems to do nothing but eat grass and make weird noises all day? There really is no lamb-like trait that I would compare anyone to, let alone God, so what gives? Why is it that Jesus is called a lamb…and not just once in a while, but thirty-one times throughout the New Testament?
There are two primary reasons. The first one most of us know, but the second reason why Jesus is called a lamb is a bit more obscure.
The first reason is because of the Jewish Passover, as recorded in the book of Exodus. God told the Hebrews that if they wanted to be spared the tenth plague, the death of the first born, they had to kill a lamb and eat it. After the lamb was killed, they were directed by God to put some of its blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over (Passover) their homes, sparing their children the plague. Thus, the shedding of the lamb’s blood saved Israel, leading to their freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
The Last Supper was a Passover meal. Jesus became the new lamb of sacrifice. The original Passover was nothing more than a foreshadowing of the true sacrifice that freed all people from the bondage of sin–the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb.
The second reason why Jesus is called the lamb is because of a twice-daily ritual that happened approximately from 960 B. C. to 70 A. D. Twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, the Jewish priests would sacrifice a lamb in the Jerusalem temple to atone for the sins of the Jewish people during that particular day and that particular night. These were very special sheep that were cared for in a very particular way. Scholars believe that the shepherds who were out at night at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem were watching over the lambs destined for this type of sacrifice, as these lambs needed constant surveillance, the only reason they would have been out at night. If this is true, it was a clear symbol of Christ’s sacrifice already at his birth.
Where this second reason for Jesus being called a lamb really hits its climax is when and who first calls Jesus a lamb: John the Baptist. When John first saw Jesus as he approached to be baptized, he said to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
The part about taking away the sins of the world is very important because John was making clear reference to the daily ritual in the temple. His comment illustrates his understanding of Jesus’ role, not only to atone for the sins of the Jews on a particular day or night, but also to atone and take away the sins of the entire world for all time. Jesus is not just a lamb of sacrifice for a particular people; he is a universal lamb of sacrifice for all people. He is the Lamb of God!
At Mass when we say the “Lamb of God” before Communion, the priest breaks the host and lifts it up to symbolize a lamb, broken, as though dead, and says the same words the Baptist said: “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The priest says this while holding up the broken host because that is who it is. Every time we go to Mass, we take part in the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus the lamb, the sacrifice that saves us and takes away our sins.
Lambs are not fast or ferocious, they cannot swim (at least not that I know of), they do not have great strength, nor can they fly; they are are just there. But because the lamb was such an important symbol of both sin and atonement and salvation and freedom to the ancient Jewish world, there can be no better animal to compare to Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God. —Father Richard Kunst