Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)
It’s ten o’clock on 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 ironic question intends to make your son aware that he has failed to do as he said. The Gospel of John frequently uses irony in such a way.
It is ironic that the Jews in the gospel today 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 particularly hard on the Jews in the gospel for not appreciating eternal life. Its significance escapes most of us. 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, almost unimaginable. 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 hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a chorus 100,000 strong, but it is really beyond our comprehension. We can only wait in hope to experience it.