Thursday April 5, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Lent
Reading (Genesis 17:3-9) Gospel (St. John 8:51-59)
In the readings today, we see one of those rather marvelous exchanges again. We have God making a covenant with Abraham, telling Abraham that from him there are going to be kings, rulers, and all these different individuals who will stem from him in this exceeding fertility that God promises to Abraham. God promises also that He will be the God of Abraham and his descendants throughout the generations. Abraham and his descendants on their part must serve the Lord and keep His commandments.
You have that on the one side, and now you have Jesus who is, in his humanity, a son of Abraham. He comes into this world as one who is not only part of the covenant, but He is the maker of the covenant. He is both God and man. He, who is the covenant, who made the covenant with Abraham, is now under the covenant in His humanity. So, He could say to the people, "Before Abraham was, I AM." He talked about how Abraham rejoiced to see this day. God showed to Abraham, in one glance, all the land of Canaan. He brought him up on the mountain and showed him the whole thing, everything that would be his inheritance. He also showed him all the stars in the sky and said, "Your descendants will be like this." Somewhere along the line, Abraham must have had a vision where the Lord showed him that from Abraham was going to come the Messiah. Today, the Lord says, "Abraham rejoiced to see this day. He saw it and was glad." You have that part of it, but you also have the part where Our Lord, as you recall in one of the Gospel readings, talks about how Lazarus died and went to the bosom of Abraham. The people would pray to Abraham. They would talk about their father Abraham. Yet, now they are saying, "Abraham is dead." Abraham was very much alive and Abraham did indeed see this day. Abraham, from Heaven, who is the father of many nations, was able to see the day of the Lord and to know that Jesus Christ came into the world. He knew that He was the fulfillment of the covenant that God had made with him. So, Abraham rejoiced to see the day. He knew this was the day of salvation for all of his descendants, for all the nations that had come down from him; in fact, all of the nations, even those who were not descendants of Abraham.
When we look at our own situation, we see that this promise is made to Abraham: that God will make an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants after him. Saint Paul talks about how all those who share the faith of Abraham are children of Abraham. That is us. We partake of that covenant, we are partakers in the covenant of Jesus Christ, who is Son of Abraham and Son of David. You have all these different covenants that lead up to Christ and are fulfilled in Christ. We share in all of them. How blessed we are to have all the promises of God and to know that they are for us. Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of all the promises and really is the ultimate promise God has made, is there for us.
When we look to Jesus, it is there that we have our hope. It is there that our faith rests because He is the promised One. He has also made more promises for us about eternal life; about coming to be with Him; about preparing a place for us; about salvation; about resurrection; about all these different things. When we understand who He is, we need to have absolute, unswerving faith in His promises. To see the promises made to Abraham 3500 years ago, and see that they are fulfilled in Jesus, and the promises made to Moses, David, and all the others. Then, see that this is the fulfillment and that God supersedes that almost infinitely and gives us His own Son, who not only fulfills the promises, but He is the promise. And He gives us new promises.
We have no reason to doubt. We need to believe whole-heartedly. The people couldn’t accept who He was because He told them He was God. He called God His Father, and said, "Before Abraham was, I AM." They knew He was God and they tried to stone Him because they could not accept it. So, the question is: Do we? Do we really believe that He is God? That He is the promised One and that He will be the fulfillment of all the promises made to us? Do we have absolute faith in Him? And the trust in everything that He has promised us, so that our faith and our hope is solely set in Jesus Christ?
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.