Readings: Genesis 17:3-9, Ps. 105:4-9, John 8:51-59

“I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:7)

One name that appears prominently in all our readings today is Abraham. In today’s First Reading, God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham even though he was childless at this time. The fact that Abraham did not doubt God remains a source of inspiration for us today. In our Gospel passage, the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus because He declared that He was older than Abraham. What lessons can we decipher from today’s readings?

1. There is Power in Our Names: Have you ever thought about the meaning of your name? Do you think there is a connection between your name and your destiny? Looking back at your life, has your name contributed positively or negatively to your current circumstances? The fact that God changed his name from Abram (meaning “like a father” or “honorary father”) to Abraham (meaning “father of multitude”) tells us that names are not merely means of identification. Don’t wait till everything is perfect before you start answering the name. The more they call you by a new name, the more your life reflects or attracts the meaning of your new name.

2. Our Baptismal Names Indicate Our Covenants with God: Just as God gave Abram a new name while entering into a covenant with him, we were all given new names on the day of our baptism to signify our rebirth. Like all other sacraments, baptism is a covenant with God; there are terms and conditions such that if we do our part, we need not worry about receiving the blessings attached. Today’s First Reading contains the blessings Abraham would enjoy from God, and towards the end of the reading, we hear God’s expectations. Am I still conscious of these expectations? Am I keeping my baptismal promises? What about my agreements with God?  

3. Through Faith, We Are Abraham’s Descendants: The phrase “multitude of nations” occurs more than twice in today’s First Reading. Since Abraham had only one child, Isaac, after this promise was made, it is obvious that God was not referring to Abraham’s biological descendants. The multitude of nations are those who believe God’s Words without doubting and practice them. Jesus confronted the Jews with this ugly truth - although they were biological descendants of Abraham, they couldn’t lay claim to Abraham’s blessings because of their sinful behaviours.

4. The Ultimate End of Our Covenant with God is Eternal Life: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (John 8:51). In another passage, Jesus said something similar: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:51). In both instances, Jesus’ listeners assumed He was referring to earthly life. Today, many Christians still assume that the blessings of God are limited to this life. They worry and panic when they don’t have all the luxuries of life. They even feel God has failed them when they are not as comfortable as they wish. By ‘not tasting death’, Jesus referred to the life that never ends, the life beyond the grave.

5. Jesus is God Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Just as God revealed himself to Moses as “I AM” in Exodus 3:14, Jesus reveals His identity today as “I AM.” Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was” (past tense); rather, He said: “Before Abraham was, I AM”, meaning He always is and will be forever. This was too much for the Jews to understand. Thinking they were serving God, they picked stones to throw at Jesus. What an irony. How often do we pick stones to throw at those God has sent to help us?

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, bless me with the kind of faith Abraham had. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of the 5th week of Lent. Bible Study: Genesis 17:3-9, Ps. 105:4-9, John 8:51-59).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu