‘WHERE IS THE LAMB OF GOD?’ (Jn 1:29-34): 03 January 2008 (Thursday)
In today’s gospel reading, John the Baptist sees the Lord and identifies him to the crowd with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
My question for the day is: “Where is the Lamb of God in the world today? If we are to play the role of John the Baptist, where can we find the Lord?”
I found him last week in a most unexpected place. While waiting for a friend one evening, I decided to pass the time by surfing through the cable channels. I chanced upon a pretty well-crafted Filipino film. Because my friend was quite late, I ended up watching most of it and even enjoyed the movie. But I didn’t realize then that I had stumbled over what is virtually a parable about the Lamb of God.
The movie, “Close to You,” directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, is about a photographer named Manuel, who is secretly in love with his best friend Marian. Unfortunately, Marian is obsessed with another childhood friend, Lance, who is now the lead singer of an emerging rock band. The movie chronicles how Manuel patiently accompanies Marian in the latter’s attempt to meet up with Lance, all the while hiding his true feelings. When sparks fly between Marian and Lance, Manuel decides to withdraw and give his friend some space as he nurses his own broken heart. It’s an engaging and touching story of love and self-sacrifice.
The complication begins when a good samaritan friend brings them back together and takes it upon herself to disclose Manuel’s secret love for Marian. Confused, Marian now has to choose between her best friend and the rock singer.
There are two outstanding–and for me, significant–scenes in the movie. The first is the confrontation scene between Manuel and Marian after she discovers his feelings for her. When Marian also tearfully admits her own confusion, instead of taking advantage of the situation, Manuel suggests that she follow Lance to Singapore to clarify her own feelings. His eyes welling in tears, he assures her of his unconditional friendship as he lets her go.
In the final scene, Marian, having decided that it is Manuel she loves, returns to Manila and catches Manuel’s first one-man photography exhibit. There she is surprised to find a whole gallery of her pictures that Manuel had taken while she was sleeping. The photography is a clear labor of love, every stolen shot lovingly taken. It is obviously the work of a person smitten with her, someone who has watched her sleep for hours.
These two scenes have obviously not been written with any theological purpose, but reflecting on them, I can’t help but identify the character of Manuel as a Christ figure. Think about it: In the first of the two scenes, Manuel shows the deepest respect for Marian’s freedom and extends to her the utmost courtesy by letting her go and clarify her feelings–even if he knows he might end up losing her in the process.
Manuel’s unconditional love for Marian, his respect for her freedom, and his courtesy towards her–aren’t these the very features of the Lord’s love for us? The Lord never forces his love on us. He never demands that we love him back. He merely invites us to use our freedom to respond to his love, giving us all the space and time we need–even if he knows he might end up losing us in the process.
The stolen shots of Marian sleeping in Manuel’s one-man exhibit reveals the close–and almost obsessive–attention he pays to his beloved, how he has painstakingly studied every feature and detail of her face and how he is almost helplessly hypnotized by the vision of her lost in her dreams.
Doesn’t the Lord love each of us with a similar near-obsession? Having created us and fashioned us out of his own hands, he has lovingly studied every feature we have and he knows every aspect of who we are. Fascinated by the beauty and goodness that he–and often he alone–sees in us, he gazes upon us with utmost love and benevolence even when we’re not looking.
Who would have known that watching a love story like “Close to You,” one would find the Lamb of God? Who would be able to guess that our stories in film and symbols in secular media can be teeming with Christ figures and metaphors of God’s love? If we want to look for the Lamb of God in today’s world, we have to learn to read our world and our times more deeply–and more daringly. If we want to be able to identify him and name him, we will need to open our eyes and strain our ears with greater effort because it seems that no place is too secular for him.
You never really know where you’ll find him these days.