Apr 7, 2022: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

1st Reading – Genesis 17:3-9

When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
“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.”

Today’s first reading comes from the story of God’s initiating a covenant with Abraham. This covenant is mentioned previously, in Genesis 15, but here it is specifically drawn up and put into the form of a covenant, and the pious Abram is renamed Abraham.

When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:

The verses immediately preceding this passage set the scene: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said: ‘I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’ Abram fell face down.”

“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.

Among other things, God promises through this covenant that Abram would be the father of many nations. In token of this, his name was changed — the first person in biblical history to have his name changed by God.

By changing his name, God is conferring a new personality and a new mission, as can be seen in the meaning of this new name: “father of a multitude of nations.”

Saint Paul will interpret this new name of Abraham as having a connection with the Gentiles converted to Christianity (Romans 4:17). This name, therefore, becomes a prophetic announcement of the face that the non-Jewish world will, in due course, become part of the people of the New Covenant, the Church.

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.

This covenant is entailed; that is, it’s a covenant not only with Abraham but with his descendants as well.

This is a covenant of lavish promises: here, God makes an everlasting promise to be the God of Abraham and all future generations of his offspring.

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.”

Another promise: That the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.

It is truly The Promised Land.

God also said to Abraham: “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

The covenant had its origin in an initiative on God’s part, but it also commits man. Those who will have God as their God must consent to be his people.

Psalm 105:4-9

R. The Lord remembers his covenant forever.

Psalm 105 proclaims that the created world reflects the glory of God forever, and his covenant with his people is everlasting.

Look to the LORD in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. 

Israel is invited to praise and seek the presence of God.

Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought, his portents, and the judgments he has uttered. 

The psalmist exhorts the people to remember the mighty works that God has done for them, works that should make a deep and durable impression on their hearts.

You descendants of Abraham, his servants, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones! 

The psalmist reminds them that they are God’s chosen people, and therefore under his protection and provision. As such, they are dependent on him, devoted to him, and obligated to give him thanks.

He, the LORD, is our God; throughout the earth his judgments prevail.

This verse echoes the summaries found in Deuteronomy 26:3-10 and Joshua 24:2-13, which the people used to profess their faith.

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.

Recalling the promise God made to give the people a land of their own, a promise made to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-2, as well as our first reading) and Isaac (Genesis 26:3), the psalmist stresses that the Lord will never go back on his word.

This is why the people should offer praise, this is the ground of their hope.

Gospel – John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
“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.

We continue our journey in John’s gospel, walking with Jesus as he reveals his full identity to his skeptics.

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

Christ promises eternal life to those who accept and remain faithful to his teaching.

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?”

Sin is death of the soul, and sanctifying grace is life (John 1:4,13; 3:15,16,36). Through grace we enter eternal life, a pledge of the glory we shall attain beyond this earthly life and which is the true Life.

Blinded by their hostility, the Jews do not want to listen to Jesus and therefore they fail to understand him.

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.

The knowledge Jesus is speaking of is more than intellectual knowledge. The Old Testament speaks of this “knowing” in the sense of love, faithfulness, and generous self-surrender. Love for God comes from the certain knowledge we have of him, and the more we love him, the better we get to know him.

Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

Jesus presents himself as the fulfillment of the hopes of the Old Testamant patriarchs. They had stayed faithful, eager to see the Day of Salvation.

The most outstanding of those patriarchs was Abraham, our father in faith (Galatians 3:7). As we heard in the first reading, it was Abraham who received the promise of being father of an immense people, the chosen people from whom would be born the Messiah.

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.”

Jesus’ reply to the skeptical remarks of the Jews contains a revelation of his divinity. By saying “Before Abraham came to be, I AM,” our Lord is referring to his being eternal, because he is God.

Saint Augustine explains:

“Acknowledge the Creator, discern the creature. He who was speaking was a descendant of Abraham, but that Abraham might be made, before Abraham he was” (In Ioann. Evang., 43, 17).

So they picked up stones to throw at him; 

This assertion is absolutely incomprehensible to those who close themselves off to faith; they even think he is blaspheming.

The punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning (Leviticus 24:16); but only after a legal trial and conviction. They are clearly enraged by Jesus’ words.

but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

The Greek is ekrybe, “he was hidden.” This could mean Jesus was hidden by those in the crowd who wished him well, or perhaps he concealed himself behind walls or pillars within the temple, or perhaps he eluded them by some divine power.

This does not indicate that Jesus was afraid or ashamed to stand by what he had said, but as John emphasized throughout his Gospel, Christ’s hour had not yet come.

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