In 1879 in a remote village called Knock in Ireland there appeared at the gable end of the church a vision which 30 people witnessed. The vision lasted for about an hour. The people saw a lamb standing on an altar and surrounded by angels. To the left of the altar was Our Lady with St. Joseph on her left and St. John the Evangelist on her right. No words were spoken, and yet it said so much. This happened at a time of terrible poverty and not long after the great potato famine which wiped out most of the population. It seemed to be a message of hope and encouragement from heaven, saying to the people ‘You are on the right track and God is with you.’ The people then had also been going through terrible suffering for their faithfulness to the mass. They were persecuted in a savage way, but they did not give up. They believed, as we do, that the bread and wine really and truly becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus in each mass. This vision seemed to confirm this. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was at the centre, being worshipped by the angels and accompanied by Our Lady and the saints. We usually talk about this apparition as a Marian apparition, but it would be more accurate to say it was an apparition of Jesus on the altar accompanied by Our Lady and the two saints. Where Jesus is, Mary will always be, but Jesus must be at the centre.
As you know in each mass we refer to Jesus on the altar as ‘the Lamb of God.’ After the consecration—when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ—the priest holds up the host and says, ‘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.’ Jesus is the Lamb who was sacrificed for us to take away our sins, so that we could be united to God.
1900 years before the apparition at Knock when John the Baptist was baptizing people, he saw Jesus approaching and he said to the people, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ And later when some of John’s disciples were wondering about who Jesus was, John said to them, ‘He is the one to follow, not me. I am not important.’
John was sent to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. He called people to repent, to change their ways and then he pointed to Jesus as the one sent by God; Jesus was the one who would save his people from their sins. Jesus himself said that a greater man than John had never been born and John’s birth was accompanied by strange and wonderful signs. His father Zachariah had a vision of an angel who told him that his wife Elizabeth would conceive and have a child. He was to be called John. As a sign to Zachariah that this would take place he was made dumb and could not speak until the time when the child was born and named. When John grew up he went out into the wilderness by himself until he began preaching publicly. He was so outspoken that he was arrested and eventually killed for telling King Herod that it was wrong for him to live with his brother’s wife.
When you connect the events of Knock with the life of John the Baptist time seems to disappear. They both speak of the same thing and what they are telling us is that Jesus is the one to follow. Jesus is the one who comes to us on the altar in each mass and although we suffer and struggle, God is with us so we have nothing to be afraid of.
We have been given an extraordinary gift in the mass: the gift of Jesus himself. We can receive him every day if we wish. There is no greater gift than this because it is the gift of God himself.
There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.