DAILY READINGS AND REFLECTION
Thursday (2 April 2020) – 5th Week in Lent
Genesis 17:3-9 – Abraham, the father of a multitude of nations
ABRAM bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings.
‘I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
‘I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’
John 8:51-59 – Your father Abraham saw my Day and was glad
JESUS said to the Jews: ‘I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.”
‘Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’
Jesus answered: ‘If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father, by the one of whom you say, “He is our God” although you do not know him.
But I know him, and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves. But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.’
The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied: ‘I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am.’
At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.
MANY, if not most, will need several and attentive readings to grasp some sense and significance in today’s gospel. If we have only read it casually, pray to the Holy Spirit, go back again and read in the Spirit. For the Spirit, God alone, can reveal His own saving Word to us.
Yesterday, Jesus declared that those who believe and make His Word their home, would become His disciples, learn the truth and the truth will make them free.
Today, in the same chapter 8 of St John, Jesus moves one more step forward in His claim, a step to the beyond: “…whoever keeps my word will never see DEATH.”
To understand that believers who make Jesus’ Word their home, will never see death, hence ARE EVER-LIVING, is key to understanding what Jesus says today.
We are not surprised the Jews were convinced that Jesus was possessed, and reacted vehemently to His claim that His Word destroys death itself and brings eternal life! For it is a claim to be divine, to be God! (For which they would kill Him soon).
They challenged Jesus: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too.”
But Jesus remains radically humble. He does not claim greatness, glory, and power, for His own. That would be no glory!
The power over death is conferred by His Father, the Father who sent Him, the Father He has always known, whose Word He has faithfully kept. He would be lying if He says anything otherwise, just as the Jews are lying because they say they know God but do not recognize Him in Jesus.
“I tell you solemnly, before Abraham was, I AM”.
The Jews picked up stones to throw at Him.
The truth – that all who believe will not die but live forever – will help us understand the first reading and the deep connection between Abraham and Jesus in the gospel: Faith. Faith that takes us to God, empowers us to share His life, overcome death, and give life eternal.
God renamed “Abram”, “Abraham”, both with exactly the same meaning in Hebrew, “Exalted Father”. “Abram”, however, had been given by his father Terah in Mesopotamia.
God who called and took Abram out of his family, put him under His authority, now confirmed he was going to be the “Exalted Father”. Later, Abraham’s descendants understood his name as “the father of a multitude” (of nations).
It was by placing his total faith in God, left his country and everything familiar that Abraham received the Promise that he would be the father of many who live, living forever.
By faith Abraham lives, he is not dead, and Jesus said it to the Jews: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.’ We remember Jesus pronounced the same truth to the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection, that all who believe are alive:
“But concerning the dead rising, have you not read about the burning bush in the Book of Moses, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mk 12:27).
O God the Holy Spirit, remove all deadly unbelief from my mind, my heart and my spirit! Give me faith to believe in Jesus the Son, move me to make His Word my home, and so live through Him with God the Father in Your mighty unity O Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.