Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)
The fourth century heretic 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. He claimed that this 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 a divine status. In the gospel the Jews reason similarly. Because they think that Jesus came to be in time like everything else, he is wrong to claim equality with God by calling himself “I AM.”
A few years ago theologian Robert Barron, now a bishop, published an essay which can be used to explain how Arius and the Jews are mistaken. Like the great thinkers of the Catholic tradition, Bishop Barron understands God not as just the highest being but qualitatively different from all other beings. Therefore, He cannot be compared to any other. God gives glimpses of who He is throughout Scripture and especially in Jesus, but His nature is beyond human understanding. Only because of God’s revelation can it be said that He became human. How this came about is also beyond human reckoning although it remains a truth of faith.
We can say, however, that God became human so that we 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 if we allow it.