5th Week of Lent, Thursday, Apr 2nd

Genesis 17:3-9 / John 8:51-59 
Jesus speaks about himself: “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

The unusual verbal formula “I AM” without a predicate is found often in John (e.g., 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58). It is also found in the synoptics (e.g., Mark 14:62, Matthew 14:27). The formula is the same one that Yahweh used to identify himself in a solemn, revelatory way in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 3:6,14; 20:2). Use of the formula places Jesus on a par with Yahweh himself.
It is a striking affirmation of Jesus’ divinity. And the Jews understood it this way, for they “picked up stones to throw at [Jesus].” They regarded what he said as blasphemy. (Lev 24:16)
What convinces us most that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God,
in the fullest sense of the word?
“I am amazed by the sayings of Jesus....And they certainly turn the world upside down.” Katharine Butler Hathaway
As we read today's gospel and if we remember what were the gospel passages for this week, we may get a certain feeling of frustration. Because it can be quite frustrating to hear the "Jews" (as the gospel called them) always getting into an argument with Jesus. Yet, it must also be said that the "Jews" themselves were frustrated too because they just could not understand what Jesus was talking about. There was this underlying frustration of not understanding as well as misunderstanding. It was this frustration that led them to throw stones at Jesus, and the frustration boiled over to become a hatred that eventually made them to nail Jesus to the cross.

As we come to the 5th week of Lent, we too might be having some feelings of frustration. We might have felt that Lent had passed too quickly, that we have not done anything spiritually worthy till now, and that we do not have any "feeling" for Lent.
So, we may be frustrated and disappointed with ourselves for having a fruitless Lent and that we have not done anything much for God. Yet let us take heart in the 1st reading. It is not so much what we can do for God but rather what God has done for us.
Through Abraham, God has made a Covenant with us in perpetuity and Jesus is the expression of this covenant.
Jesus is the "I AM". And no matter what we have not done, God will still be our God and we will still be His people. Let us take consolation in that and keep faithful to Jesus for the rest of Lent.

Our communion with God, our salvation, depends on faith. God makes to us his offer of a covenant; we have to trust the word of God. Abraham believed God’s word and his faith changed the destiny of himself (hence the new name) and of his people. Many Jews did not believe and cut themselves off from their ancestor and from God’s new people. God speaks to us his Word, who is a person: Jesus Christ. If we believe in him, we become the new people of the new covenant by baptism, and the Promised Land will be ours.

Penitential Rite
-You tell us: Look to the LORD in his strength; seek to serve him constantly, but we served other gods, LHM
-You remind us: we are descendants of Abraham, his servants, sons of Jacob, we are his chosen ones, but we acted as strangers and outsiders, CHM
-You ask us to recall the wondrous deeds that he has done in our lives, but we have forgotten them and been ungrateful, LHM

Opening Prayer
God of Abraham and God of Jesus Christ, our examples of faith and fidelity, your word rouses our obedience. By your grace we risk our lives for your promise. As you confirm us in faith again, may we know the peace of faith and obedience.  May our trust be the foretaste and promise of the life we shall have in you and may we already know the blessing of your love even today.

Abram and his descendants live in covenant with God and their part is to keep that covenant-obey God. Jesus is arguing with the people who reject him and are intent on killing him. They are misreading him and are not hearing anything he says-they have already decided what they are going to do. But Jesus is truthful and tells them if anyone is true to his word they shall never see death. This is Jesus' proclamation to us as we draw near to Holy Week and our own dying to evil and violence and what is not truth. Jesus is life-life forever-and is God, from the beginning. In John's gospel, developed around the year 100 AD, the community is declaring Jesus as God (not the emperor) knowing that they too may face death for believing in Jesus and worshipping only Jesus. They seek to kill him. Not today. But the day will come when sin and evil, when violence and injustice will be the choice of people-as it still is today. Do we keep God's covenant with us in Jesus and refuse to harm anyone? Do we obey and stand with the Truth that is Jesus?

General Intercessions
–   Jesus, you who are, we pray for those who cannot believe in you. Let them be people who follow their conscience, we pray:
–   Jesus, you who are, gave us the grace to believe in your word and also to keep it in our daily living, we pray:
–   Jesus, you who are, we pray that the Jewish people may come closer to us through their fidelity to the covenant you made with Abraham, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord God, you speak your living Word in our midst, your Son Jesus Christ. Give us faith, a strong faith, that we may believe in his presence among us and that we may be his presence in the world of today. Give us a bit of his Spirit that people may accept him in us, for is our Lord for ever.

Prayer after Communion
Lord our God, in days when life looks drab and when we get impatient with ourselves, we have a hard time to realize that your Son is present in our midst. Give us a trusting faith that he is here for us and with us, to lift us above ourselves and to give us hope in your future. Make us deeply aware that you have bound yourself to us and share our destiny through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Lord, let your word be on my lips and in my heart that I may walk in the freedom of your truth and love."

Points to Ponder
The covenant with Abraham
Jesus the I AM
The new covenant of the heart.

May we keep the Lord’s word not only in our minds but also in our deeds, that we may enjoy eternal life, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.