Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
“Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (Jn 8:56) This is one of the more mysterious claims of Christ in the Gospel of John, and one which compels more and more to ask what we believe about Christ as we enter into Holy Week. Some scholars will note that this passage could refer Abraham seeing the initial fulfillment of God’s promise of descendants, the birth of Isaac. The birth of his first son (from his wife) brought great joy to Abraham, and it would be through the descendants of this son that eventually Jesus would come. That is one explanation for what Jesus is saying here. But it seems to capture only a part of Jesus’ meaning. Jesus’ claim is bolder, and He makes it clear when He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (Jn 8:58) Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God.
So how could Abraham rejoice to see Christ’s day? When the Church Fathers commented on this passage, they point out the important ways in which God revealed Himself to Abraham: for example, the visit of the three angels to Abraham (Gen 18) or when God tested Abraham and then stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, offering a ram instead (Gen 22). In these cases, Abraham was able to deal with the Lord very closely, and perhaps was given a foretaste of how the Lord would fulfill the promises He was making at that moment. Abraham could not have enjoyed such a foretaste, nor indeed such encounters with the Lord at all, if he did not have faith in God and in the Lord’s promises. How much do I allow the Spirit of the Lord to show me that He will keep His promises? “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (Jn 8:51) Let us ask for the grace to trust in these promises so that we may see their fulfillment. May the Spirit of Christ fill our hearts with contemplation of His promise of life, so that we may see the life that comes even from the cross.