Saturday, March 28, 2015
Jesus and Abraham and the claim of divinity: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, March 26th, 2015
(Listen to this homily here).
Last weekend I preached about the importance of covenants. Here is more proof of this exchange of persons with a person, oath and sign: “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.’” We also prayed together in the Psalm: “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.”
This morning I would like to point out the radical statement Jesus made about Abraham in John’s account. “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.’” This is an example of the I am statements of Jesus given by John in an intentional way. Through John’s narrative Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the door,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the bread of life,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
These I am statements evoke God’s mysterious name given to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
What is revolutionary about this particular claim of Jesus and Abraham is that he actually takes the divine name for himself: “before Abraham came to be, I AM…” You can’t see it now, but the lectionary shows “I AM” in capital letters. Capitalizing YHWH in the Old Testament was the way in which the Jews avoided saying, or even reading, God’s name aloud because to do so would be to call oneself God. The lectionary captures what Jesus is claiming with the same method. Note, the Jews think he is blaspheming—they pick up rocks to stone him! If Jesus was not God, Jesus would have indeed been guilty of such a crime. But Jesus is.
God came down to earth. He came to be ever present among us. As we prepare for Holy Week, may we be present with him!