I AM

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
(John 8:51-59)

Scripture Study

8:51 never see death: Not that Jesus exempts believers from the experience of bodily death, but that he saves their souls from spiritual death by the gift of eternal life (Rom 6:23).

8:56 to see my day: Probably a reference to the events in Gen 22:1–18. ● (1) When Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac as a holocaust, only to receive him back alive, the patriarch witnessed a preview of the Father surrendering his Son to death and receiving him back in the Resurrection (Heb 11:17–19). (2) In response to this act of faith, Yahweh rewarded Abraham with a sworn covenant promise that one of his descendants would arise to bless all nations (Gen 22:16–18). This oath is fulfilled in the dying and rising of Jesus, who offers blessings to every nation (Mt 28:18–20; Gal 3:14; CCC 706).

8:57 not yet fifty years old: Jesus is only in his early thirties (Lk 3:23).

8:58 before Abraham was, I am: Jesus takes for himself the divine name of Yahweh, “I am” (Ex 3:14). He thus claims to be one with God (10:30), whose life in eternity has neither beginning nor end. The Pharisees hear this claim loud and clear and, thinking it outrageous, stand ready to stone him for blasphemy (8:59; Lev 24:16) (CCC 590).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today Jesus refers to himself as “I AM,” the name God revealed to Moses. So, let’s reflect on this episode from Genesis. While tending sheep in the hill country, Moses sees a strange sight. There an angel of the Lord appears to him in fire, flaming out of a bush. God sees him and calls him by name: “Moses, Moses. I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” This is a very familiar God, one who knows Moses’ ancestors.

Moses makes bold to ask, “If the Israelites ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” “God replied, ‘I am who I am.’” What does that mean? God is saying, in essence, “I cannot be defined, described, or delimited. I am not a being, but rather the sheer act of to-be itself.”

“This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” The sheer act of being itself cannot be avoided, and it cannot be controlled. It can only be surrendered to in faith. How shocking and strange Jesus’ listeners must have found it when Jesus took this name for himself!

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.