Monday of week 5 of Lent (Year C)- Gospel


Commentary on John 8:12-20

“I AM the Light of the world.” This is one of the seven “I AM” statements which Jesus makes in the course of John’s gospel.* When Jesus uses the term “I AM” it is not just a version of the verb “to be”. It echoes the name that God gave when Moses at the burning bush asked the voice he was hearing to identify itself. The Hebrew is variously translated as “I AM who I AM.” Later philosophers and theologians will see in this statement God identifying himself as pure existence and the source of all that exists. Jesus also lays claim to use this term also and does so seven times in John’s gospel. It also appears in other contexts as when Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman (John 4).

In the Prologue to John’s gospel the author also says:

All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life
and this life was the light of the human race.
(John 1:3-5)

We are to walk in that light, and, in a reflected way, that is, insofar as we reflect Jesus in ourselves, we too are to be the light of the world. After delivering the Beatitudes, Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world” (cf. Matt 5:13-14). We are to be the moon to Jesus’ sun.

But Jesus’ self-testimony is challenged by some Pharisees because they say there are no other witnesses to his words. Jesus counters by saying that he knows what he is talking about while his hearers know nothing of his real origins. As far as they are concerned he is a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. They are looking at him from a merely human point of view and, contrary to what they see, Jesus is not alone. There is a witness to back him up, namely, his own Father.

Speaking from their human perspective, they ask where his Father is. Jesus tells them that they neither know him (that is, his real identity) nor do they know the Father. If they really knew Jesus, they would know the Father as well because, for those who know, Jesus is the mirror of his Father. “Who sees me sees the Father” Jesus will tell Philip at the Last Supper.

It is therefore very important for us to know Jesus intimately for through him we go to God and in him we begin to understand something about the nature of God. We do that principally in two ways: by steeping ourselves in the Scriptures and by prayer.

If we have not been very good at doing either of these things, Lent is an excellent time to start. It may already be the fifth week, but, where getting closer to God is concerned, it is never too late.

*The seven statements are:
I AM the Bread of Life (6:34,48)
I AM the Light of the World (8:12)
I AM the Gate (10:7)
I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11)
I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6)
I AM the true Vine (15:1)

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