Saturday, April 01, 2006

BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM!

On Passion Sunday, the ancient liturgy brings the Church into a period of mourning over her divine Bridegroom. Just as the Pre-Lenten Sundays prepared us for the holy season, we now prepare for the Sacrifice of our Redemption. Our Divine Savior will be lifted high on the Cross of Calvary. In ancient times a vigil was kept at the tomb of Saint Peter during the night before Passion Sunday. This was done because Peter was called to be the Successor of Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.

The Introit of today’s Mass begins with Judica me, Deus, the supplication of the 42nd Psalm. At the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Priest begins each day’s Mass with this Psalm:“Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy. Deliver me from unjust and deceitful men: for thou art God, my strength. At today’s Mass, we identify with Jesus in His struggle on the Mount of Olives. Our Lord begs the Heavenly Father for a judicial decision between Himself and His unholy people, particularly the wicked and treacherous Judas Iscariot, who seek to kill Him. We are making the same plea as we struggle with the evil forces in our midst for these forces attempt to lead us away from Our Savior.

The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus, the mediator between God and man, will bring about man’s redemption by means of His death. But, make no mistake; no one will take His life from Him. In obedience to the will of the Father, He will lay His life down of His own of His own will. Jesus, the Messiah, is the Son of God.

In the Gospel, Saint John shows us the growing hatred of the Sanhedrin for Jesus. They should have recognized that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. They knew the signs. Although they had eyes to see and ears to hear, they refused to see and hear. Because they refused to believe, Jesus told them that they would die in their sins. Infuriated by this rebuke, they insulted and blasphemed Him. They even had the audacity to accuse Jesus of being possessed by the devil.

Our Lord’s answer: Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day; he saw it and was glad. Then in response to their continued denial, He said: Before Abraham was, I AM. With this, they took up stones to stone Him to death. Why? Because, they knew that His words could have meant one thing only - - - He was identifying Himself as the Son of God! Still, they refused to believe.

Were they responsible? Could one argue that they made an honest mistake? No! Our Lord’s words make that very clear. They knew the Scriptures extremely well. The signs were clear! The blind saw, the lame walked, the dead rose, and the poor had the Gospel preached to them. Yet, they would not believe; they would not follow Him. They wanted no part of His teachings.

Today, two thousand years latter, many do the same. They still refuse to believe. Like the Sanhedrin of old, they too want a Messiah whose kingdom is of this world. They do not want the Kingdom of God, as presented by the Jesus of the Gospels. They want a kingdom their way, not God’s way.

Let us not fall into the same trap. We have been baptized into Christ Jesus, into His Mystical Body, which is the Church. The Church is the Sacrament of Salvation, as Vatican II identifies it. She is our ticket to the Kingdom of Heaven. God grant that we will never depart from the truth of her teachings. May Mary, the Mother of the Church and our holy Mother of Sorrows, lead us safely home to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Father Richard J. Rego, S.T.L.

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