Those listening to Jesus teaching in the temple area claim they’re “descendants of Abraham.”(John 8,31-42) They know well the splendid temple buildings, its well-ordered worship, its ancient traditions, and so they ask: “Why listen to this man? We have what God promised to Abraham; it’s automatically ours”.
But God’s promises are not automatic, Jesus says. “If you were the children of Abraham you would be doing the works of Abraham.” The great patriarch, a nomad, found God’s promises revealed from place to place. He discovered the works of God in time. So must we.
John’s gospel was written well after the temple and Jerusalem itself were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Jews and Jewish Christians in his time, “descendants of Abraham” may have longed for the restoration of ancient structures now gone and the surety they found in them.
This gospel would remind them, and us, that Abraham, “our father in faith,” ventured on paths unknown.
Does that sound like our times? We’re called to have Abraham’s faith, a mystic faith. In our first reading today from the Book of Daniel three children thrown into the fiery furnace in Babylon sing in the flames.
Is God telling us to do that today? Sing in the flames and God will lead us on.
Two centuries ago, St. Paul of the Cross urged those who sought his advice to hold on to the Unchanging One we meet “in spirit and truth.” God will be our guide..
“Jesus will teach you. I don’t want you to indulge in vain imagery over this. Freely take flight and rest in the Supreme Good, in God’s consuming fire. Rest in God’s divine perfections, especially in the Infinite Goodness which made itself so small within our humanity.” (Letter 18)
O God, you are my God,
For you I long.
My body pines for you,
Like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps 63)
You guide our steps into the unknown. Lead us on.