thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Thursday of the Fifth week of Lent
Readings may be found here
In the Book of Exodus, after the Lord commissions Moses to announce delivery to Israel, Moses asks for a name that he can announce to the people. (Exodus 3:12-13) The Lord responds “I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (v. 14).
The Hebrew for the Divine Name revealed to Moses is notoriously difficult to render in translation. It is fair to say that it is a verb form and this is expressed in the English translation, “I am Who am.” What’s missing in that translation is the sense of presence communicated by the Name. It is discernible in the context as earlier (V. 8) God self identifies as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Likewise, in verse 12 God tells Moses “I will be with you.” The Name communicates this active presence of God to Moses and the people.
In the first reading for this Thursday, we hear from early in the narratives about Abraham in the Book of Genesis. We hear today about the relationship that God establishes with a new family through the call of this faithful man. The Psalm plucks a similar tune, praising the fidelity of the Lord to the family.
The passage from the Gospel of John is more difficult as we are continuing to hear disputes between the Lord Jesus and His opponents. At issue is the question of Jesus’ origins and identity. He invokes that family relationship, but He goes on to say something abslotely remarkable: “before Abraham came to be, I AM.” In that electric phrase, Jesus confirms and asserts the truth already revealed in His deeds of compassion and mercy. He is no mere prophet; He is the revelation of the Living God. And just as in the case of that passage from Exodus, he uses the language that emphasizes His presencewith us. As Saint Paul proclaimed so passionately, it is now this Divine Name Jesus at which “every knee shall bow…” (Philippians 2:10). Praised be the Name of Jesus Christ, now and forever!