29 March. Thursday of Week 5 of Lent
Genesis 17:3ff. Abraham believe in God’s promises, despite long delays and disappointments.
John 8:51ff. The mysterious relationship between Jesus and Abraham.
Abraham’s Enduring Promises
The promises of Abraham reached forward into the future, even into centuries beyond our present age. In them God anticipates a day when all the nations of the world will find themselves united as though they were blood-relatives, all of them offspring of their one father Abraham. The different races of planet earth cannot establish this bond through common genealogy or blood descent. It can happen only by sharing the same faith and hopes and that means faith in land promised equally to all persons, faith in a way of salvation where no single group travels alone, faith in a common sharing of earth’s riches, faith in the one divine dignity of all persons.
The promises to Abraham, when compared to the later exodus out of Egypt under Moses, have a much more universal sweep. They are reflected in the kingdom of David, when Israel opened lively diplomatic relations on an international scale and absorbed many customs and values of their neighbours – with God’s blessing. The promises to Abraham advise us to think big, to respond openly, to seek and dream the divine ideal of one world, one people.
The words of Jesus reach back not only to the age of the great patriarch (1850 B.C.) but even behind that first day in Israel’s history to the eternal day before creation. “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Jesus identifies himself with Yahweh. This name for God, very special and sacred to Israel, means in the Hebrew language “He who is always there.”
In St. John’s great message, Jesus is more than the fulfilment of Abraham’s faith and hope; Jesus was one with God who planned for the day of Abraham before the universe was created, directed world history so that Abraham would be the single hope of all people, led Israel’s history forward till this eternal Word became incarnate as Jesus, son of Mary. As the great I AM, Jesus is the Lord of our history. His hopes and plans will remain at least partially unfulfilled until all men and women are one. We are reminded of St. Paul’s famous statement: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with him. There is no longer among you Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, if you belong to Christ, you are the descendants of Abraham, which means you inherit all that was promised.” (Gal 3:27-29)
First Reading: Genesis 17:3-9
Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”
God said to Abraam, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.”
Gospel: John 8:51-59
Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whomyou say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.