Translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews
Brethren: Christ being come, a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by His own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of a heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? And therefore He is the Mediator of the new Testament; that by means of His death, for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former Testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Translation of the Holy Gospel According to John
At that time, Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Which of you shall convince Me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe Me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to Him: Do not we say well, that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil, but I honor My Father, and you have dishonored Me. But I seek not My own glory; there is One that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen, I say to you, If any man keep My word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and Thou sayest: If any man keep My word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost Thou make Thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father that glorifieth Me, of Whom you say that He is your God. And you have not known Him; but I know Him. And if I shall say that I know Him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know Him, and do keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day: he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said to Him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM. They took up stones therefore to cast at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.
Transcription of Homily
The Saving Words of the Gospel.
Abraham rejoiced that He saw my day.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today, we begin this stronger, more intense preparation for the Easter Triduum. This is called Passiontide.
And so, as our Lord in today’s Gospel, really threw down the gauntlet, affirming not only that He is the Son of God, but that He is the Divinity itself. Before Abraham was I AM. He calls Himself YHWH. And this is telling the Jews “Deal with that. Accept me and believe it or do what you think you have to do” – which is to crucify Him. And so, they find themselves in that predicament. “Do we accept Him? We’ve seen His miracles. We can’t deny His miracles but if we accept the miracles as of God, then we have to accept His words.” And so, they are forced into a decision. And this decision then, sadly, in on the part of many of them, was to resist the work of the Holy Spirit – to not believe their lying eyes. They saw the miracles. They knew only God can make a man see who was born blind. Only God can raise somebody from the dead. Only God can do all of these things that He did, but they don’t like the consequences and so they reject Him.
And Christ calls Himself God.
And somehow, the Holy Spirit works through them, even, by making them refer to Abraham. And so, Christ then uses that reference to Abraham to talk about this mysterious episode that happens in Genesis 15. And He talks about the day of Abraham. Now, the day of Abraham actually took place at night. It’s a very enigmatic chapter in Genesis Chapter 15. Sun was setting, and this deep sleep falls upon Abraham. It’s a dread, it’s a darkness, and invades his very being. St. Jerome translates this from Hebrew. The Hebrew word means hibernation, dormancy, and he translates as sopor, sopor. The Greek Septuagint, in other words, the Old Testament that was written in Greek, uses the word ἔκστασις (ékstasis); to be outside of oneself. And this word is only used, up until now, for Adam in his deep sleep. When God put Adam into this deep sleep and took from him, from his side, his bride. And now we see this word again, this dormancy, this ἔκστασις, the sopor, this lethargy from which he cannot lift himself descend on Abraham.
And it points to the sleep of Christ on the cross. What happens when Christ, the New Adam falls asleep on the cross? His Sacred Heart is pierced by a lance and from His side pours out the waters of baptism [and] the blood of the Eucharist that makes Christians and nourishes us.
And so, in the case of Abraham, which is referred to, it begins with Abraham being tested, but also being given a promise, a promise of several things: An heir, who will issue from his body and bring about numerous descendants. Of course, he doesn’t know that the greatest son of Abraham will be the Son of God as well, the God-man, the Word made flesh, but he also is promised land. Land is what we live from. And so, it’s also symbolic of a soul, the life principle of the body. And a country, therefore, is a union of souls. And the Holy Land is Heaven itself. God the Father says, Look up into heaven. Take in all the stars if you can, and your descendants will be greater than that. Unbeknownst to Abraham, who is considered the father in faith, God’s fulfillment far exceeds anything Abraham can conceive of. Not only does he have a son, Isaac, but ultimately Jesus of Nazareth will be a son of Abraham.
And how is this covenant brought about? Abraham is told to take a heifer, to take a bowl, to take some birds, and then cut them in half. And, as a cut in half, to divide the halves and walk between them. Why would he do that? It’s something that is rather strange. It’s certainly hard to forget. The idea is that this covenant better be remembered, because when I walk through these divided animal parts, I’m assured of a blessing if I’m faithful, but I’m also assured of my own destruction if I’m unfaithful. But what does Abraham See also walking through the animal parts? He sees a flaming furnace and the lamp. And what does this mean?
There’s another covenant being forged in that very moment. The flaming furnace is the Blessed Trinity. We see in Deuteronomy God is called a consuming fire. A consuming fire. If you think of that scene in Daniel where the three young men, Meshach, Abednego, and Shadrach, they’re thrown into this furnace and no harm comes to them. And the king looks and says, “I see three men walking around and wonder looks like a son of man.” And those who approached the furnace were consumed, they were burnt up. But these just men were not harmed by the flames, and this is also a symbol of heaven.
We cannot survive heaven if we’re not in a state of grace. We’re not equipped for it. Just as we can’t live underwater without an apparatus to breathe, we can’t live in outer space, because we’re not made for that. We can’t live in heaven unless we receive an extra help, and that help is the Life of Grace. And so, these just men are not harmed by the fire, but the unjust perish. The same with heaven.
And so, as God seals this covenant with Abraham, God also seals this covenant with Himself, The Trinity with the Sacred Humanity of Christ. Christ, because there’s this furnace, which is the Trinity, and then there’s lamp. Who is the lamp? That’s Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Light of the World. And notice that this is all happening in the dead of night. And it says later, it says in Genesis 15, and on that day, it wasn’t day anymore, but it was day because of the Light of Christ. “On that day, I sealed a covenant with you.” And so, we know that God who is perfect in Himself, God who is perfect in His Sacred Humanity cannot fail. We have failed Him, each one of us. That’s why we go to confession, to be restored to the New Covenant in the Blood of Christ. And then, through that grace we receive in the sacraments, we are prepared for the Day of Christ. We are prepared for the Eternal Day. We are prepared for heaven.
So, our Lord says that, Abraham rejoiced that He saw My day. He saw the lamp, the Light of Christ, burning so brightly. And through the centuries, the Light of the World shines and every Holy Mass. The Light of Christ shines in every child that’s baptized and every sinner that is forgiven in confession, and every dying person who receives the last sacraments. When Christ finally came to take upon Himself our flesh, He reveals the Father perfectly, and in His Sacred Humanity, He keeps His side of the bargain. But because of our failings, because of our failings, man has to pay for the infidelities and Christ goes to the Cross in our place. He pays a price that not one of us could pay, and not all of us together could ever imagine paying. But He can because of His Divinity, He can because of His humanity. And when we believe, and Faith is not merely an intellectual act of assent, when we believe it’s something that informs our activity. So, when we believe we adjust ourselves, we jump through His hoops. We follow His conditions. We believe in His promises. We accept the terms of the Covenant, and millions and millions of these descendants of Abraham await us in heaven as does the very Light, Jesus Christ Himself.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.
— Fr. Ermatinger