Abraham is the common denominator in both readings. The change of name form Abram to Abraham represents a shift—a shift toward a broader concept of God. God promises to make Abraham the father of many nations and then reverts back into the tribal-god-become-real-estate- agent (Gn 17:3-9).
There are conflicting concepts of God here. First off God appears to be the God of a “host of nations.” God is the God of every nation. Then, the concept of God backslides into tribalism—“I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession.” Now the God of all nations is favoring one nation over all other nations. If I were writing this account, I also would make sure that my God gave me land in perpetuity.
Hopefully, our concept of God had outgrown the rather primitive concept presented here. Our concept of God should have evolved to seeing God as the God of all nations. Even if one bows to the concept of God favoring one nation with land, it was always conditioned, as it is here, on faithfulness to the covenant—on the way the widows, orphans, aliens, the least among them are treated. Many would question whether Israel, because of its treatment of the Palestinians, can claim the land even under this concept of covenant. For all practical purposes, the United Nations gave Israel the right to occupy part of the land of Canaan.
Think about it. Think of the havoc and bloodshed this narrow concept of God has wrought on the world. Palestinians, Native Americans, and many other aboriginal peoples have been victimized and exploited by the concept that God meant someone to have the land that other people were actually dwelling on.
The debate with the “Jews” continues (Jn 8:51-59). Jesus is portrayed in John, probably the latest Gospel, as being in control of what is happening. John’s community saw Jesus as sovereign. This will be apparent when we read John’s version of the Passion Narrative on Good Friday. Jesus is in charge even in the Garden when he is arrested. The people who have come to arrest him fall back and fall down in reverential awe. Jesus knows that in his eschatological struggle with the forces of evil and death he will overcome. Death will not end things for him. This pronouncement causes the “Jews” to say that Jesus is possessed.
Jesus tries to tell them that the “Father glorifies” him. Jesus lives in contemplative union with Abba God. Jesus knows God and God knows Jesus. They are one in the Spirit. On Sinai, Yahweh told Moses, “I am who am.” That is my name.
Merton read Gilson, the French philosopher, and saw that God was being. This was a turning point in Merton’s conversion. God became the ground of his being—love. In The Shack one of God the Father’s/Mother’s names is El-ousia. Elohim was a name for God in the Old Testament. Ousia is Greek for Being.
Jesus here is boldly proclaiming that he is God—I AM. They immediately recognized what they considered to be blasphemy and tried to stone him. We need to be very aware of how we conceive Jesus and God. We need to tread lightly because our concepts, however we might like to think otherwise, can never capture the essence of God who is beyond all concepts, even beyond all being. At best, we can say, “God is” because God has said, “I am.” Regardless of theological and philosophical speculation, we know that God loves us and that we live in contemplative union with God. God is. We are in God. God is love. We can love in God.
The Is-ness of now,
The Now-ness of Is.
It’s all there is—
The future is to be.
The past was.
The present is—
Now Is, Is Now.
There is a choice—
Live then or,
“I am who am.”
I am for you—
© J. Patrick Mahon, 2009