10th April. Thursday in Week 4 of Lent
The focus is on the power of faith, in those who believe. Believers will inherit what God promised to Abraham.
First Reading: Genesis 17:3-9
(Abraham believe in God’s promises, despite delays and disappointments.)
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
(The mysterious relationship between Jesus and Abraham.)
Jesus said, “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.
Abraham’s heirs today
The promises of Abraham reached forward into the future, even for ourselves and indeed for centuries to come. In these promises God anticipates a day when all the nations of the world will be united as one family, like blood-relatives, all spiritually the offspring of the great man of faith, our father Abraham. Naturally the different races on earth cannot claim this bond through genetic descent but by sharing the same basic faith. Abraham represents faith in a kind of salvation where no individual travels alone, but all will have a fair share of our earth’s riches, and each shows respect for the divine dignity of our fellow human beings.
When compared to the covenant made during the exodus period, under Moses, the promises of God to Abraham have a more universal sweep. They are reflected much later when, in the time of king David, the people of Israel opened diplomatic relations on an international scale and absorbed customs and values from their neighbours, with God’s blessing. The Abrahamic promises prompt us to think big, to respond openly, to seek and dream the divine ideal of one world, one people. In the words “Before Abraham came to be, I AM,” Jesus identifies himself with Yahweh, the living God of Israel. This name for God, very special and sacred to Israel, means in the Hebrew language “He who is always there.”
Jesus is the fulfilment of Abraham’s faith and hope; and more. In today’s text from St. John’s Gospel, He states that from the beginning He was united with the God (the Father) who had Abraham’s day in mind before the world was made. As the great I AM, Jesus is the Lord of our history. His hopes and plans remain at least partially unfulfilled until all races are united in harmony. But in the meantime we Christians are guided by Paul’s great insight: “All who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with him. .. And if you belong to Christ, you are the descendants of Abraham, which means you inherit all that he was promised.”