Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)
The charismatic heretic of the fourth century Arius had the same problem which vexes the Jews in today’s gospel. If God is infinite, he argued, then he could not become incarnate in a singular subject. This, he claimed, would be like putting a mountain into a box. Therefore, Arius concluded, Jesus must have been created like all other beings and then raised to divine status by God’s special indulgence. In the gospel reading the Jews critique Jesus as coming to a similar erroneous conclusion when he claims, “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” The Jews think that Jesus is identifying himself with the eternal “I AM” when he is obviously a creature born in time.
Recently Fr. Robert Barron, one of today’s gifted theologians, published an essay which can be used to explain how Arius and the Jews are mistaken. Like his great predecessors Saints Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Barron understands God not as just the highest being but qualitatively different from all other beings so that he cannot be compared to any other. We have glimpses of who God is through Jesus, but His nature is really beyond human understanding. It is only because God has revealed it that we can say He became human. Again how this happens is beyond reckoning.
God became human in Jesus so that humans can become like God. Knowing ourselves as sinners, this may seem incredible although the saints provide us a glimmer of hope. Jesus’ death and resurrection has given them the grace to become holy. The same Easter mystery will sanctify us.