Jesus Is “I AM”
April 7, 2022 (readings)
- Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
- Marybeth Harper
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.
Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this moment of prayer. As I reflect on these words of Scripture, I want to recommit to my Lenten resolutions out of love and gratitude.
You Are Possessed: As Jesus was preaching to these Jews, their rejection of him escalated until they called him possessed. They couldn’t have been farther from the truth at this moment, despite their physical proximity to Jesus. Their passions stirred them to anger and their hearts were hardened to faith in Christ. They were sure of their wrongful assessment of him but lacked true discernment. Discernment in a Catholic sense is the ability to sift through a variety of seemingly contradictory movements of the mind, heart, and soul and, by the power of the Spirit, align one’s will with God’s. To discern God’s will for our lives, we need spiritual proximity to Christ through the sacraments and in our daily prayer. We can also benefit from regular dialogue with a spiritual director.
Never Taste Death?: It’s a fact of human nature that most of us don’t think much about death until we’re at a funeral, standing by someone’s deathbed, or very ill ourselves. This crowd was incited when Jesus said, “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” But, had they seen the master of life and death for who he is, they might have been curious instead of incensed, hopeful instead of angry, open to the Spirit instead of hurling insults about devilish possession. Death is an inevitability for all of us and it behooves us to reflect on it periodically. When we do, we can embrace this encouragement from St. Therese of Lisieux: “It is not Death that will come to fetch me, it is the good God. Death is no phantom, no horrible specter, as presented in pictures. In the Catechism, it is stated that death is the separation of soul and body, that is all! Well, I am not afraid of a separation which will unite me to the good God forever.”
I AM: The Lord clearly revealed his divinity to this crowd of irate men, proclaiming “I AM.” They thought he was blaspheming, and they failed to recognize his divinity. But we know the truth. Before Abraham was, Jesus existed. This tells us that God is eternal. God is timeless. God is completely independent of his creatures. God never changes. And Jesus revealed by His suffering, death, and Resurrection that God is pure love. Reflecting on these words, “I AM” with the Holy Spirit’s gift of fear of the Lord can help us to explore more deeply the inexhaustible nature of God.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, this group of people called you possessed and threw stones at you. If they had heard you with “ears to hear,” they would have realized that you were clearly identifying yourself to them. What a generous and loving God you are! May I never lack the courage to approach you in my weakness and frailty because you show me in these verses of Scripture how much you want me to know your deepest reality.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend ten minutes reflecting on “I AM.”
For Further Reflection: 10 Things Yahweh Means.
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