Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fifth Week of Lent: Thursday

FIRST READING (Genesis 17:3-9)
Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

GOSPEL (John 8:51-59)
Jesus said to the Jews, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death."

The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?"

Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad."

The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. "

As he spoke thus, many believed in him.

Do you submit to Jesus' words as if your life depended on it? Jesus made a claim which only God can make - "if any one keeps my word, he will never see death." St. Augustine of Hippo, in his commentary on John's Gospel, explains this verse: "It means nothing less than he saw another death from he came to free us - the second death, eternal death, the death of hell, the death of the damned, which is shared with the devil and his angels! This is the real death; the other kind of death is only a passage."

When God established a relationship with Abraham, he offered him an "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:7). Jesus came to fulfill that covenant so that we could know the living God and be united with him both now and for all eternity. God made us to know him and he gives us the gift of faith and understanding so that we may grow in the knowledge of what he has accomplished for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus challenged the people of Israel to accept his word as the very revelation of God himself. His claim challenged the very foundation of their belief and understanding of God. Jesus made a series of claims which are the very foundation of his life and mission. What are these claims? First, Jesus claims unique knowledge of God as the only begotten Son of the Father in heaven. Since he claims to be in direct personal communion with his Father in heaven, he knows everything about the Father. Jesus claims that the only way to full knowledge of the mind and heart of God is through himself. Jesus also claims unique obedience to God the Father. He thinks, lives and acts in the knowledge of his Father's word. To look at his life is to "see how God wishes me to live." In Jesus alone we see what God wants us to know and what he wants us to be.

When the Jewish authorities asked Jesus who do you claim to be? he answered, "before Abraham was, I am." Jesus claims to be timeless and there is only one in the universe who is timeless, namely God. Scripture tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus was not just a man who came, lived, died, and then rose again. He is the immortal timeless One, who always was and always will be. In Jesus we see the eternal God in visible flesh. He is God who became a man for our sake and our salvation. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to share in his immortality. Do you believe the words of Jesus and obey them with all your heart, mind, and strength?
(From Don Shwager's web site)

St JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c.347-407) ON JOHN 8:58:
Do you see how He proved Himself to be greater than Abraham? For the man who rejoiced to see His day, and made this an object of earnest desire, plainly did so because it was a day that should be for a benefit, and belonging to one greater than himself. Because they had said, "The carpenter's son" Matthew 13:55, and imagined nothing more concerning Him, He leads them by degrees to an exalted notion of Him. Therefore when they heard the words, "You know not God," they were not grieved; but when they heard, "before Abraham was, I Am," as though the nobility of their descent were debased, they became furious, and would have stoned Him.

"He saw My day, and was glad." He shows, that not unwillingly He came to His Passion, since He praises him who was gladdened at the Cross. For this was the salvation of the world. But they cast stones at Him; so ready were they for murder, and they did this of their own accord, without enquiry.

But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I Am"? As the Father uses this expression, "I Am," so also does Christ; for it signifies continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?
(St John Chrysostom, from Homily 55 on the Gospel According to John)

Look, O Lord,
upon our sin-stained consciences,
and cleanse them with thy precious blood.
Look upon our divided hearts,
and heal them by thy redeeming grace.
Look upon our languid spirits;
kindle in them the fire of thy perfect love;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(William Booth 1829-1912)


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