Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)

It’s ten o’clock Saturday morning, and your eldest son Bobby is bouncing down the stairs for breakfast. He has slept through the promise he made his younger brother to take him to soccer practice. You ask coolly, “Have you had enough sleep, Robert?” Of course, you are not really concerned about his health. Your question ironically intends to make your son aware that he has failed to keep his promise. The Gospel of John frequently uses such irony.

It is ironic for the Jews in the gospel today to say, “Abraham died as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’” They lack understanding that Jesus is speaking of eternal life whose fullness comes with the resurrection at the end of time.

We need not be hard on the Jews in the gospel for not appreciating eternal life. Its significance escapes many of us as well. It is not merely life without end. Nor is it spiritual life as some envisage a colony of ghosts in heaven. Eternal life is new, extraordinary, challenging to the imagination. At the same time recalling glimpses of the resurrected Jesus, we can say that it is conscious, corporal, and joyous. We might compare it to witnessing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a finale of fireworks, but it is really beyond ourselves to comprehend. We can only wait in hope to experience it.