John the Baptist sees that which others do not. He sees beyond the mere outward appearance of a man, his cousin. His eyes are opened to see the Ancient of Days, the Messiah, and in this person, the promised means of our salvation. He sees the Lamb of God.

His response is to command us to ‘behold’, to look, to gaze, to pause for a moment from the distractions that fill our minds, that we might see the wonder before our eyes.

This command to ‘behold’ is fundamental for without it we cannot see what is before our eyes and we will miss the glory that passes us by, the glory for which our hearts long.

This beholding is the first movement in our contemplation of God and enables our journey of salvation – without it we are lost. It is this very beholding that Cardinal Sarah is urgently commending to us, the Church, to rediscover in his book “The Power of Silence”. For without it we cannot hope to find and commune with our God.

It is in the silent looking that we are made aware of him who makes himself present under the appearance of bread and wine in the Mass. It is sadly all to often the lack of silent beholding that, despite all the religious externals, has meant the loss of the awareness of the presence of Christ in our midst. It has led to a lack of reverence around the holy things of God that reveals a spiritual ignorance of the generous gifts of grace that are given to us by the Lord.

John the Baptist had been watching and waiting for a long time to be “the voice that cries out in the wilderness”; that “prepares the way of the Lord.” It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that reveals to the Baptist who the Lord truly was. It was the power of that same Holy Spirit, that had been with him from his birth, that enabled him to fulfil his given vocation and cry out “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

In these few words the Baptist not only points out the Saviour of the World but also the means by which that salvation would be achieved. The Lamb of God vividly brings to mind the Exodus and the Passover Lamb, whose blood protected all who hid under it from the Angel of Death. It also evokes the suffering servant of Isaiah by whose wounds we are healed. It also reveals our journey of salvation which requires our dying with Christ that we might rise with him in glory. This begins at our baptism.

All who are baptised have thus been given the Holy Spirit so that we may seek out our heart’s desire – the Lord. In finding the Lord, we follow the Baptist. We are compelled by the grandeur of the glory we contemplate to cry out, in our turn, “behold the lamb of God.”

This crying out isn’t reserved for our moments of prayer and in celebrating Mass. Sometimes we compartmentalise our lives – Sunday I do religion and Monday to Saturday I get on with the rest of my life. No, the vocation of seeking, searching and pointing out the way to the Lamb of God is fulfilled in every moment of our lives. Whether we are at home, at work, in our leisure in all our speaking and actions. We fulfil our particular vocation in this cycle of silent contemplation of the mysteries of God, in our eyes being opened to the wonder of His glory and in the power of the Spirit crying out and pointing the way to our Saviour.

In this is our vocation fulfilled and the mission of the Church renewed.