5th Week of Lent
1st Reading: Gen 17:3-9
Abram fell face down and God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but Abraham, because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you more and more famous; I will multiply your descendants; nations shall spring from you, kings shall be among your descendants. And I will establish a covenant, an everlasting covenant between myself and you and your descendants after you; from now on I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you, for generations to come. I will give to you and your descendants after you the land you are living in, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be the God of your race.”
God said to Abraham, “For your part, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.
Gospel: John 8:51-59
Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but you say: ‘Whoever keeps my word will never experience death.’ Who do you claim to be? Do you claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”
Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise myself, it would count for nothing. But he who gives glory to me is the Father, the very one you claim as your God, although you don’t know him. I know him and if I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I know him and I keep his word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”
The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.
I have an Indonesian friend who tells me that among her tribe in Sumatra, the Batak, there is a ceremony called manulangi at the death-bed of one’s parents. Each one of the family offers some morsel of food, and then the dying father or mother speaks. The words are listed to with utter attention. These words, said my friend, are more than words; they are like things, they will last forever, they are the father and mother. Whenever there is a crisis in the family, these sacred words will be repeated again and again. They bind the family together, reaching through generations, beyond death. That is “keeping their word”; keeping the Word of Jesus is something similar.
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