Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
“The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.”
Reading 1 Gn 17:3-9
“My covenant with you is this:
you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham,
for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
I will render you exceedingly fertile;
I will make nations of you;
kings shall stem from you.
I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
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 in which you are now staying,
the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
and I will be their God.”God also said to Abraham:
“On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
Verse Before the Gospel Ps 95:8
If today you hear his voice;
harden not your hearts.
Gospel Jn 8:51-59
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Commentary on John 8:51-59 from Living Space
Jesus continues to challenge the Jews about his identity. They continue to misunderstand the real meaning of what he says. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” This they can only understand in a literal sense.
But they do see the implication of the words that Jesus is claiming to be more than Abraham or any of the prophets. And they ask: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” This was the same question they asked of John the Baptist (John 1:22) who gave a very different answer.
Jesus makes it perfectly clear to them by talking of his “Father” and then saying that the Father is the one they call “our God”. But he continues by saying that they do not know the Father, although they may think they do. And they do not know the Father because they do not know Jesus. Jesus, however, knows him and keeps his word. Then comes the supreme provocation: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day: he saw it and was glad.” (This could be a reference to the joy following the unexpected birth of Isaac, when the promise was made to Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the sands on the seashore and as the stars in the sky – Gen 17:7; 21:6)
To which the shocked Pharisees retort: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham?” only to have Jesus make the ultimate claim: “I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever came to be, I AM.” Again we have Jesus using the term “I AM” of himself. He unequivocally identifies himself with Yahweh. The Pharisees are horrified by what they regard as terrible blasphemy. The term ‘came to be’ is used for all that is created, while ‘I AM’ is used only of the Word, co-eternal with the Father-God.
“They took up stones to throw at him…” They were not able actually to carry out their plan to kill him because his “time” had not yet come. Then come words of prophetic significance: “”Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.” It is a striking summary of Jesus’ role.
Jesus “hid himself”. In his humanity, the Godhead in Jesus, which he has just spoken about, was largely concealed (except to those with the eyes of faith). St Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises speaks of the divinity being hidden during the terrible hours of the Passion. St Paul in his Letter to the Philippians speaks of Jesus “emptying” himself and taking the form of a slave.
And “he left the Temple”. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies in the Temple split right open, revealing the sacred inner sanctuary to the world. God was no longer there, he had left the Temple. And he now dwells in a new Temple, not now a building but a people, the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ.
• Chapter 8 seems an exhibition of works of art, where it is possible to admire and contemplate famous paintings, next to one another. Today’s Gospel presents us a painting, and a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews. There is not too much connection between one and the other painting. It is the spectator who, thanks to his/her attentive and prayerful observation, succeeds to discover the invisible thread that binds the paintings, the dialogues among themselves. Thus, we penetrate into the divine mystery which envelops the person of Jesus.
• John 8, 51: Whoever keeps the word of Jesus will not see death. Jesus makes a solemn affirmation; the prophets said: Oracle of the Lord! Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you!” And the solemn affirmation is the following: “Whoever keeps my word will not see death!” This same theme appears and reappears many times in the Gospel of John. These are words of a great depth.
• John 8, 52-53: Abraham and the prophets died. The reaction of the Jews is immediate: “Now we know that you are out of your mind. Abraham died and the prophets also died. And you say: “Whoever keeps my word will never see death”. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who are you claiming to be?” They did not understand the importance and significance of the affirmation of Jesus. It was a dialogue of the deaf.
• John, 8, 54-56: I am glorified by my Father. Once again and as always Jesus hits on the same key: He is so united to the Father that everything that he says or does is his. Everything is the Father’s. And he says: “The one who glorifies me is my Father, the one whom you say, ‘He is our God!” and 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 yourselves are. But I do know him and I observe his word. Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad”. These words of Jesus must have been like a spade which wounded the self esteem of the Jews. To tell the religious authority: “You do not know the God whom you say you know. I know him and you do not know him!” It is like accusing them of total ignorance exactly regarding the theme on which they think they are specialized doctors. And the final word increases the measure: “Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing my Day, he saw it and was glad”.
• John 8, 57-59: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham! They took everything literally, thus showing that they did not understand anything of what Jesus was saying. And Jesus makes another solemn affirmation: “In all truth I tell you: before Abraham ever was, I AM”.
For those who believe in Jesus, here we reach the heart of the mystery of the story. Once again they pick up stones to kill Jesus. But neither this time will they succeed, because his hour has not as yet come. The one who determines the hour is Jesus himself.
• It is a dialogue with the deaf between Jesus and the Jews. Have you sometimes had the experience of speaking with a person who thinks exactly the opposite of what you think and is not aware of it?
• How can we understand this phrase: “Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing my Day, he saw it and was glad”?
Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders, the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)
LASTING LIFE CAN ONLY COME FROM GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: GEN 17:3-9; JN 8:51-59
The fifth week of Lent was formerly called Passion Week because this is the week that the Church highlights the mounting tensions against Jesus leading to His death as a result of His boldness in declaring His identification with God. Yet for the Church, it is because Jesus is the “I am” that He could give us life, life even in death. This then is the theme of today’s scripture readings.
The irony of life is that there is nothing more fearful in life than death. People are frightened of death simply because in death we are isolated. We are frightened of physical death because it means to depart from our friends and from the world that we are so attached to. But not only are we fearful of physical death, we are even more afraid of a living death. That is to say that we are physically alive but are rejected by our fellow human beings. In other words, we fear the death of our ego – a theme highlighted in yesterday’s readings. The question that calls for our reflection today is how we can overcome the fear of death, be it physical or a personal death? The key to liberation from death is relationship.
In the first reading, Abraham was promised perpetuity for his family and his land provided he remained faithful to the covenant that God had established with him. Indeed, in the first place, if Abram could step out of his own country and go to an unknown place that God promised him, it was because Abram must have had a deep relationship with God, a relationship so intimate that is expressed by his faith. Without a deep relationship, it is impossible to have such a faith. Conversely, without faith, there cannot be a deep relationship. Hence, in the case of Abram, he conquered all his fears because of his relationship with God in faith.
What is said of Abraham is even truer for Jesus. Jesus was not fearful of death. According to Him, one could never die if we only know who the Father is. This is true on both levels. Firstly, because if we know God intimately, then we know that physical death is not really death. In the eyes of God, there is no death. God is the “I am who am.” He always lives. Rightly so, Jesus could confidently declare Himself as the “I am”. He knew the Father so intimately and personally that He also knew that death is but an illusion. Not only for Him, but all those who know God, including Abraham, will not die. That is why Jesus could say that “Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day.”
Secondly, those who know God will also not die a living death. So long as we do not seek the glory of the world and the glory from our fellow human beings, there is no question of fear. Fear of the death of our ego comes about only when we seek to please so as to win acceptance and recognition. But those who give us the glory and so-called love at the same time also have the power to take away our glory and love.
Hence, most of us are so miserable and confused. We live under the manipulation of people. One day they say that we are great and we feel so great. Next day, they say we are terrible and then we feel terrible. When that happens, our happiness is always so short-lived, always under threat, not knowing how long it is going to last. So, we cannot really be happy in the final analysis.
For Jesus, His personal freedom comes from the fact that He knows that the only glory that will last is the glory that comes from God Himself. Only that kind of glory, no one can take away from Him. Indeed, He declared that “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all.” “My glory” he said, “is conferred by the Father.” What is this glory that is conferred by the Father? It is but His glory of sonship, His sonship that was fully confirmed in His death and resurrection. Hence, because Jesus knew that He was forever the Son of the Father, He could live His life in full confidence of His love. There was no need then for Him to seek to please people. He only needed to be simply Himself. Truly, Jesus was so true to Himself that even when people wanted Him to deny His own identity, He remained firm to His convictions.
Yes, we too can find real freedom if only we realize that God has given us each one His own glory. We are all called to live out our own sonship accordingly to the plan that He has for us. Instead of trying to please people, we only need to be true to ourselves. But to be true to self presupposes the thing that is absolutely necessary. We must be in a deep relationship with God first. Unless we know Him, how can we know ourselves? Unless we truly believe from the depth of our hearts that He loves us, how can we not avoid seeking the love and honour that comes from our fellow human beings? But if we have a deep covenantal relationship with God and can declare with Jesus that we know the Father as well, then we will also be liberated like Him. Lent is therefore the invitation to come to know ourselves, and knowing God as our life.
– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.e4USG1Iu.dpuf