The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday April 14

Scripture: John 8: 51-59

Jesus continues to challenge the Jews about his identity. They continue to misunderstand the real meaning of what he says. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” This they can only understand in a literal sense. But they see the implication of the words that Jesus is claiming to be more than Abraham or any of the prophets. And they ask: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” This was the same question they asked of John the Baptist (John 1:22) who gave a very different answer.

Jesus makes it perfectly clear to them by talking of his “Father” and then saying that the Father is the one they call “our God”. But he continues by saying that they do not know the Father, although they may think they do. And they do not know the Father because they do not know Jesus. Jesus, however, knows him and keeps his word. Then comes the supreme provocation: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day: he saw it and was glad.”

To which the Pharisees replied angrily: “You are not fifty yet, and have you seen Abraham?” only to have Jesus make the final claim: “I tell you very truly, before Abraham was, I AM.” Again, Jesus uses the term “I AM” of himself. He clearly identifies himself with God. The Pharisees are horrified by what they regard as terrible blasphemy. The word ‘was’ is used for all that is created, while ‘I AM’ is used only of the Word, co-eternal with God the Father.

“They took up stones to throw at him…” The Pharisees were not able actually to carry out their plan to kill him because his “time” had not yet come. Then we see the words of prophetic significance: “Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.” It is a striking summary of Jesus’ role.

Jesus “hid himself”. In his humanity, the Godhead in Jesus, which he has just spoken about, was mostly concealed (except to those with the eyes of faith). St Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises speaks of the divinity being hidden during the terrible hours of the Passion. St Paul in his Letter to the Philippians speaks of Jesus “emptying” himself and taking the form of a slave.

And “he left the Temple”. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies in the Temple was split right open, revealed the sacred inner sanctuary to the world. God was no longer there, he had left the Temple. And he now dwells in a new Temple, not a building but a people, the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ.

Lord Jesus, let your word be on our lips and in our heart that we may walk in the freedom of your everlasting love, truth and goodness. Amen

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