“I AM”. These are the words used by God to answer Moses’ question: “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what do I tell them? God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:13-14) Jesus claims the same title for Himself as he begins to clearly identify Himself as the Son of God. It is a name with no uncertainty, and clear “identity” to the Jewish people of His time.
“Sent from the Father…” And if the use of the great “I AM” were insufficient, Jesus continues to make clear and regular reference to the truth that He is the One sent from the Father. In John’s Gospel, in the eighth chapter alone, Jesus uses the title “I AM” three times. (vs. 24, 28, 58) In the same chapter, Jesus makes reference to being sent from the Father eight times. (vs. 14, 16, 18, 26, 28, 29, 38, 42) Do you think He is trying to make a point?!
These are the words of Jesus the Church used for the Gospel in Mass last week, the week leading up to Holy Week. It gives us a great “clue” for how we are to understand the events of the Holy Days that lie ahead. Jesus comes from the Father, as God. His life and ministry, passion, death and resurrection are all intimately linked to this revelation of God and the salvation of God’s people. Pope Benedict XVI’s homily yesterday for Palm Sunday gives a beautiful explanation of Jesus’ return to the Father through the cross, and in this return, draws all humanity into this divine communion of love.
For much of my adult life, this intimate relationship of Jesus and the Father has held a drawing force, an interior attraction for me. It is mystery, but it is truth, and a mystery and truth that longs to break into our life and understanding. This mystery and truth are still “opening up to me”, and please God will continue to do so throughout my life. Here is just one practical application:
On Holy Thursday, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the institution of both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays: “Through him, with him in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever, and ever. Amen.” Then, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus into our very bodies. Remember the response of the crowd to Pilate from Matthew’s Passion account Sunday?…”His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Yes, by the grace of God, this is true! We are redeemed in this precious blood.
The Eucharist is THE moment in which we are incorporated into the life of Christ, over and over again in our faith journey. This is Jesus, sent from the Father, who returned to the Father. This is Jesus who is IN the Father, and now through the sacramental life of the Church is IN us. This is the work of God, at work in the Son, at work in us, drawing us up into His very life. This is the God who is nearer to us than we are to our selves.
Then, on Good Friday, we celebrate the passion and death of Jesus, that makes all this possible…which of course is capped and culminates in the resurrection. So, good People of God, we have much to celebrate this week. We have much to receive. We have much to give in faith. Celebrate well this Holy Week!