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The Great “I AM”

  • April 5, 2022 (readings)
  • Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
  • Andrew Rawicki
  • John 8:21-30

    Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

    Opening Prayer: Lord, I want to know you and follow you wherever you lead me. I thank you for your word that provides direction, and for your invitation to pray with the rest of your Church. Let your Holy Spirit help me better understand your word and more intimately meet you in this time of prayer.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. The Great Chasm: With penetrating clarity, Christ taught the stubborn Pharisees that remaining “of this world,” refusing to believe in the Christ or the Father who sent him, carries a death sentence. This delineation of two worlds, infinitely separated upon one’s death, was further clarified by Jesus in the parable of the doomed rich man, who should have been kinder to the beggar, Lazarus: “Between us and you a great chasm is established” (Luke 16:26). The only way to have life is to believe in Jesus. Lord, may we have the grace to believe always in your name, trusting your word: “...as many as received him–to those who believe in his name–he gave to them authority to become children of God” (John 1:12). 

    2. The Act of Faith: What would it take for these Pharisees whom Jesus encountered, whose fate was not yet sealed on the wrong side of the chasm, to find eternal life? Jesus plainly articulated the first step: an act of faith. Those who looked upon him when he was raised up on a cross would need to accept that this, indeed, was the Christ, the only one who could claim to be the great “I AM” from the Torah story of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Those of us with the benefit of sacred Scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of the church, must not be misled; we, too, must look to the cross and proclaim Christ, as “salvation is found in no one else.” (Acts 4:12)

    3. Giving, Not Taking: How ironic that the Pharisees jumped to the strange conclusion that Jesus might be taking his own life. Only one thing might have surprised them more—if Jesus was contemplating giving his own life. Indeed, the King of Kings would ultimately give over his life. Following in his footsteps are others who history tells us literally laid down their lives, such as well-known martyrs St. Stephen, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Today, our priests and consecrated souls are counter-cultural people who themselves generously give over their own lives for the sake of the Church. Let us pray for more laborers in the vineyard. 

    Conversing with Christ: I thank you, Lord, for your invitation to enter into prayer. You have the words of everlasting life, and you continually remind me of your willingness to meet me, whether it is in my sorrow, my doubts, my insecurity, or even in my joy. I look at you on the cross today and I recall the horrific day when my sins placed you on that hill at Golgotha. I also recall your words to the good thief, who looked to you with faith in your Kingship: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary for friends or relatives who do not know Christ, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

    For Further Reflection: Read a brief apologetics essay on what it means to be saved by faith in Christ, but not by faith alone.


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