Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Genesis 17:3-9 + John 8:51-59
“Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
While yesterday’s Gospel Reading looked in part upon Abraham, today’s Scriptures double down on this focus. Today both the First Reading and Gospel Reading look at “our father in faith”. In fact, it is Abraham as father that is the specific focus.
In the First Reading, God changes Abram’s name to “Abraham”. This new name can be literally translated as “father of many”. But God’s own explanation of why he’s bestowing this new name is worth our attention: “for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you.” You could use any one of these four phrases for meditation, especially in terms of how this call from God to Abraham foreshadows the mission of Jesus Christ, who fulfills Abraham’s call in a new way.
Yet there’s another important aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham that’s not captured by these four phrases. Later in the First Reading, God vows: “I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession”. The Holy Land for the people of the Old Testament was a geographic place upon the earth, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the Temple at the capital’s center. This is where we Christians need to understand the “Holy Land” of God’s covenant with Abraham in a new way: the Holy Land is Heaven; its capital is Christ, the Head of the Church; and the Temple is the Cross on Calvary, from which Christ’s self-sacrifice radiates throughout human history, leading the faithful of Christ’s Mystical Body into the heavenly embrace of God the Father.