Daily Homily: Abraham Rejoiced to See My Day

Fifth Week of Lent, Thursday

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Genesis 17:3-9

Psalm 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
John 8:51-59

Jesus continues his discussion with the Jews in the temple (John 8:2-58). He first encountered the scribes and pharisees, who tested him and wanted him to contradict either his doctrine of mercy by allowing the stoning of the adulteress or the Law of Moses by prohibiting  it (8:3-11). Jesus successfully avoids the trap, reveals their hypocrisy and restores the adulteress to life. Jesus then proclaims that he is the light of the world and that those who follow him will have the light of life. He also introduces the theme of his divine sonship, referring to God as his Father (8:12-20). Just as he is the Light and bestows the light of life on us, so also he is the Son and can bestows divine sonship on us.

When Jesus is lifted up on the Cross and into heaven, the people will know that he is equal to God because he is the eternal Son of God (8:21-30). To those who believe in him, Jesus reveals that true freedom is achieved not by descending from Abraham, but through sharing in the faith of Abraham (8:31-41). The people are challenged by Jesus’ teaching and signs and can no longer remain indifferent to him: they either reject him and belong to the devil (8:44-47), or accept him and share in his divine sonship. The sons of the devil are slaves to sin; the sons of the Father enjoy the freedom of the Spirit. Those who remain in the Word, will never see death.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus once again takes up the story of Abraham and says that: «Abraham rejoiced to see my day». The Jews do not know how to understand this saying. Jesus is less than fifty years old and Abraham died long before his appearance. How, then, did Abraham see this day of Jesus? We first need to understand that Jesus’ day is the day of the coming of the Messiah, the day of the Lord, the day when the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled (Genesis 12:2). The first reading today recounts the second of these three promises.

It is possible that Abraham «saw» the day of Jesus in three different ways. The first way is that of faith. Abraham believed God and saw the fulfillment of God’s promises through the gift of faith. He saw Jesus’ day with the eyes of faith. In response to his act of faith, God rewarded Abraham with a covenant that promises that one of his descendants, Jesus, would arise to bless all nations (Genesis 22:16-18). The second way is the manifestation of Mamre. Three men approach the tent of Abraham, share a meal, and promise that Sarah will give birth to a son. There is an ancient tradition that the central figure none other than the Son of God. The third and most probably way is at the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham’s son Isaac is spared and Abraham sees the day when God himself with provide the lamb of sacrifice. Just as Isaac, the son of the promise, carried the wood up the hill and is placed on the altar of sacrifice, so, one day, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God and the Son of man, will carry the wood of the Cross up the hill and be sacrificed for our sins. Abraham receives his son back alive and thus «sees a preview of the Father surrendering his Son to death and receiving him back in the Resurrection» (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament, 179).

Like Abraham, we too should rejoice as we experience the day of Jesus. Having been baptized into Christ, we walk by faith and know that we will receive the inheritance of the children of God. Second, Jesus comes to us today in the Eucharist. We receive his Body and Blood, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Third, we see the victory over sin and death when we contemplate Jesus on the Cross. We rejoice because we contemplate God’s love for us. We deserved death, but were instead given new life in Christ.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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