Gn 17:3-9; Ps 105:4-9; Jn 8:51-59
If we focus on our own victories this Lent, we have not been victorious. If we look to ourselves and to our faithfulness, we are not faithful. This Lent and every act of repentance is an act of remembering the mercy of God and the faithfulness of the LORD. His strength is all we need. To seek, to serve, to strive for the LORD, this is our true strength. We must recall his wondrous deeds. We cannot forget his portents and his judgments. If we are descendants of Abraham, if we are sons of Jacob, if we are children of his chosen ones, then we have no fear. The LORD remembers forever his covenant. If the LORD remembers the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we have nothing to fear. Even though we may forget, deny or reject his covenant, the LORD is faithful. Even though we do not recall his wondrous deeds, the LORD will bring them to mind. Not only that, the LORD will do ever more wondrous deeds through us, with us, in us, for the glory of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Such is the confidence of those who listen and savor the psalms, every Word that comes from the mouth of God. The Word of the LORD to Abram in the first reading is that he is now Abraham, and the covenant is now an everlasting pact. In today’s gospel we witness that the Lord Jesus has complete confidence in his Father. When his opponents hear of this relationship they are completely overwhelmed. They pick up stones to defend themselves against the truth. Yet, Christ never becomes defensive; he relies upon the Father’s vindication of the truth of his identity and mission. Union with Christ in such confidence is what Lent is trying to teach us, year after year.
This is one of those definitive moments in the history of a people. In the history of God’s people, this is the genesis of a host of nations through the fatherhood of Abram. His new identity as the father of faith for ages to come is signified by his being renamed. No longer will he be remembered as Abram the wanderer. He name shall be Abraham, the father of a host of nations. Abraham’s fertility is a gift from the LORD. It is the promise of the One who makes everlasting covenants. The LORD chooses to be the God of Abraham and his descendants. The LORD also promised to give him the land in which he was staying, the whole land of Canaan as a permanent possession. However, these promises of descendants and land are far surpassed by the final promise, “I will be their God.” This is unheard of. This is beyond startling. This has never before happened. The LORD, Creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them promises to be with Abraham and his children forever. The true Father of all reality has chosen one of his children to be the father of all who have faith. Abraham trusted in the LORD and in his promises, and this pleased the Father Almighty. All that the LORD commands Abraham and his descendants, to demonstrate their faith, is “you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” This command is simple and severe. This command is not kept; yet, the LORD does not take back his choice. All the prophets, even the exodus and exile, continue to reveal the LORD’s commitment to his people. Another one of those definitive moments comes to the descendants of Abraham; now he fulfills his promises beyond all expectation. In Christ Jesus the Father gives not just descendants to remember your name and keep it alive through the centuries. Now, the Father gives all who believe a share in his own divine life. In Christ we are to live forever in a heavenly home, the land flowing with milk and honey.
In the Synoptic Tradition the Lord Jesus is accused of being a servant of the evil one because his deeds are mighty and beyond human understanding and ability. Saint John’s gospel does not include this accusation, however, in today’s passage we hear the Lord Jesus called “possessed”. After the Lord Jesus makes a promise his opponents conclude that he is possessed; this is the promise, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” Among those Jews who follow the Lord Jesus there is great consternation and objection. Perhaps they are thinking thoughts like this. How can you expect us to believe anything you say when you claim to be greater than our father Abraham or the prophets? These have all lived a great witness to the reality of God and his covenant with us, yet, they all died. Are you greater than these? How can you promise us something they did not receive? In the midst of such controversy the Lord Jesus remains completely calm; he is at peace. He knows who he is and from whence he comes. This self-awareness is the source of all his confidence and calm in the midst of threats and challenges. The Lord Jesus does not waste words glorifying himself, rather, he can’t stop speaking of the Father and the Father’s promises fulfilled in their hearing. This Father, the LORD God Almighty, they claim to know, but the Lord Jesus explains, “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.” Now, the Lord is asking for it. How can he not know that such a witness will only end in his death? The Lord Jesus makes the claim that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced. The crowd objects, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” In his final rhetorical move the Lord Jesus proclaims: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” This is too much truth from The Truth himself. What else can they do save pick up rocks? However, it was not yet his hour so he hid and slipped away through the temple. His hour is coming soon, very soon.