WHO ARE YOU CLAIMING TO BE?

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06 APRIL, 2017, Thursday, 5th Week of Lent

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

First Reading

Genesis 17:3-9

3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4″Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.7And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms 105:4-9

4Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually! 5Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, 6O offspring of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones! 7He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. 8He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9the covenant which he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,

Gospel

John 8:51-59

51Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?” 54Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. 55But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”57The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

REFLECTION

“Who are you claiming to be?” This is an important question directed not simply at Jesus but to us as individuals, as an organization, as Church and as a nation.  The real problem today is that we do not know who we are.  We are confused even over our identity as a human being.  What does it mean to be human?  Are we purely made of matter or spirit?  What does it mean to be male or female? What is marriage for us?  Of course, some also claim to be “gods”.  Atheists say there is no God but that we are gods, since God is created in the image of man.  New Age adherents say there is no God since we are all part of God.  So who are we?  What is our identity?

This was the same question posed to Jesus, “Who are you claiming to be?”  All this while, Jesus had been acting and teaching. He had healed the sick, delivered those who were possessed, multiplied bread for the multitude and even raised the dead back to life.  He preached the Word of God with authority, unlike the scribes and Pharisees.  He ate and drank with sinners and most of all, forgave sins. So who was He? This was the question Jesus also asked His disciples in Caesarea Philippi.  Some thought He was “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mk 8:28)  Only Peter got the answer right and this was due to divine revelation as well, and not through His logical reasoning.  Peter confessed to Jesus saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16) And Jesus’ remark was, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”  (Mt 16:17)

Indeed, in the gospel of John, Jesus alluded to His divine origin.  He made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that He came from the Father.  He said, “’I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.”  He was the One that Abraham was waiting for.  He was waiting for that day which he saw from afar when the promise of God that he would be “father of a multitude of nations” would be realized in Christ.  Through Christ, Abraham became the father of faith for many descendants who would then come to know God; and by so doing, enter into the one family of God.  All nations will become one in Christ.

But He also underscored that His identity originated from the Father.  No one can give himself any glory.  Only God can because everything comes from Him.  Thus, Jesus was saying that as the Son of the Father, all His glory came from Him alone.  Hence, He said, “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father, by the one whom you say, ‘He is our God’ although you do not know him.”  This is true for all of us.  We cannot know who we are without having our reference point in God.  We are not indispensable in this world.  We are contingent beings.  Our existence and life depends on God who is the source of life and love.  To think that we are independent of God is to fool ourselves that we are our own making.  Before we exist, God needs to bring us into this world, unlike Jesus who was from all eternity one with the Father.  The world can exist without us but the world cannot exist without God.

For this reason, Jesus could claim that He knew God personally.  He said, “But I know him, and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.”  Only Jesus who is from God can tell us who God is.  In the prologue, John wrote, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  (Jn 1:17f)   Only Jesus who originates from God and is one with Him can reveal the Father to us.  That is why Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  (Jn 14:6)

But it is not enough for Jesus to claim that He is one with the Father.  The proof of His divine origin is seen in His obedience to the Father.  He said, “But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.”  In the final analysis, it is not what Jesus said that determines His divine origin but how He lived His life.  He was one with the Father in all things, doing His holy will and performing His works. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”  (Jn 5:30)  “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.”  (Jn 5:20) Jesus also said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”  (Jn 4:34)

In the light of the claims of Jesus, what is our response to Him?  How we accept Jesus will determine the claims we make for ourselves.  If we truly confess that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, of divine and human origin, then Jesus is for us the true man as well.  Jesus is both the revealer of God our Father and the revealer of our identity as man.  Like Him, we are called to do the will of God, be in union with Him in love, so that we too can serve and love like Him.  That is why Jesus said to the Jews, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”   He was of course not speaking about biological death.  Rather, Jesus was speaking about a relationship that never dies, here in this life and hereafter.  Jesus reveals to us that the covenant made with Abraham is now fulfilled in Him because in Him, we now share a common faith in God; and we are brothers and sisters, since we are all children of God.

So, now we need to ask ourselves this question, “Who are we claiming to be?”  If we call ourselves Christians, then we must accept all that Jesus has taught us in the scriptures.  The scandal in the world today is that many call themselves Catholics but their lifestyle is anything but Catholic. They do not subscribe to the teachings of Holy Scripture and tradition on doctrines and morality.  They go against the teachings of the magisterium but want to be called Catholics.  We are not speaking about those who know that they fall short of what Christ is calling us to be.  We are referring to those who blatantly disagree with the teachings of Christ, the Bible and His Church. They pick and choose those doctrines and practices that they like.  We cannot call ourselves Christians or Catholics unless we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that the bible is the Sacred Word of God, inerrant in teaching us the truth about God, life and ourselves.  If we are not agreeable with what it means to be a Catholic, then who are we claiming to be? So only when we keep His word, believe in all that Jesus had revealed to us and walk in His footsteps, will we live life to the fullest here on earth and in heaven.

Not only as individuals, but we must also ask as Church, “Who are we claiming to be?”  If the Church is identified with Christ, then we must be the Sacrament of Jesus to the world.  If we obey the Church, it is because we believe that Christ rules through His appointed successors in the apostolic college.  He has promised that He would never abandon His Church until the end of time. (Mt 28:20)  So we can be confident of His guidance for He also assured us,   “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18f)

As individuals or as Church, we must hear the Word of God and keep His word if we are to reclaim our identity as God’s children.   Like Jesus, we must be true to our identity.  Jesus refused to deny His true identity even in the face of trials and challenges. We too must not contradict our claims with a lifestyle that is opposed to what we believe.  Having the courage to stand up to what we claim, not just by words but by our being, will help us to restore the confidence of our people in the Church and in us.  But we can be consoled that God is faithful. “He remembers his covenant forever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.”

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