10 April 2020
The words of Jesus in the Passion story are striking to the Jews who heard him and to us. In particular I want to pay attention to Jesus’ answer to the question, “Are you Jesus the Nazorean?” And he answers, “I Am.” This happens twice in the Garden. We know, of course, that Jesus is using the very name for God, Yahweh, I am who am. So, it scandalizes the Jews and they fall to the ground in amazement that he used this name – it was blasphemy.
This answer is crucial for him and for us. Jesus is naming the truth of his identity and this sets him free to own his mission and to live it out with clarity of purpose. We see it in the rest of the story of the passion. He confronts Pilate with the notion of truth. His truth is that he is the Son of God; he is the Christ; he is the Messiah; he has come to bring the Kingdom, and as he said, “my kingdom is not of this world.”
So, the “I am” is then the key to understanding Jesus and his coming to the passion to complete his mission. Jesus is defining himself by his actions here and he sets up his response to what is being done to him. He acts out of his true identity. We see it in his silence, how he endures the denial, the pain, the brutal and cruel torture of the crucifixion. As we have seen in the Seven Last Words, Jesus responds to the situations on the cross out of his truth. He is always on mission and in his identity as both human and divine as he hangs on the cross, his Hour of Glorification.
There is this other interplay with Peter that we need to pay attention too here, that is in contrast and conflict with Jesus’ “I AM” and that is Peter’s “I am Not” answer to the question that he is one of this man’s disciples.
What a difference the inability to own your truth makes. Peter fulfills the prophesy of Jesus – You will deny me three times – Peter distances himself from Jesus, from his own truth, his life, his love of Jesus. He is denying himself out of fear. The turmoil that he creates is clear. Shame, guilt, betrayal of Jesus and of all he wants with Jesus. How often we can do that to ourselves even in little ways, as we deny who we are, before God and before one another, when we don’t live our truth, live our call, live our faith? How often we can move away from our true self which we have come to know only in God in the deepest way? What havoc it can create in us? It can lead to more upheaval in our hearts and in our actions. We can act out of anger and frustration. We tell ourselves to just let go of owning our truth. And this is a betrayal of our true self. So often out of fear.
We are always in some way at this moment of tension between I am and I am not. That’s the challenge of the Christian life. We want to live out of our “I am.” To be faithful to all that Christ is for us. It’s important for us to be clear about our truth and our identity. This touches our mission to be Christ in the world. And even before that, to be comfortable with ourselves, truly to be at home with our truth. What is your truth, what is your “I AM”, what is your name? Accept it and live it.
The identity of Jesus as the Cosmic Christ, revealed in the Death and Resurrection, clues us in on our sharing in the divinity of Christ as he shared in our humanity. Meister Eckhart says, that in this breakthrough I discover that God and I are one. The “I am” language is mysterious, but it also touches us at a deep place. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Christ in the Passion touches the depth of this mystery. The human drama and the divine identity are so co-mingled in him and as they are in us. We are invited in Jesus’ Passion to touch this mystery in ourselves.
Matthew Fox says in his book on the Cosmic Christ to celebrate our “I Am” is to put our being before our doing or having or proving. People should think less about what they should do and more about who they are. This consciousness then can affect us and shape our response to life and to the world. Perhaps we can be better at being Christ for others. And better at our spiritual journey to be one with God in Christ, if we live with the knowledge, in a deeper way that we truly are part of God, part of Christ and as Vincent Pizzuto said so powerfully in our refectory book – we are Christ!
We want to do as Jesus did at the passion. He redirected his suffering to the mission God gave him, our salvation. We see it in his forgiveness, in the declaration of paradise for the thief, in inaugurating the Church in the new relationship of his mother and disciple.
We can redirect suffering, redirect difficult situations by how we respond. Always recognizing our option to create something new by the energy we put into transforming these seemingly negative situations into activities of growth toward God and the Kingdom. Jesus showed us how to suffer and he was teaching us to use suffering constructively .
In his book The Passion and the Cross by Ronald Rolheiser, he says in simple language, Jesus, took away the sin of the world by taking in hatred and giving back love; by taking in anger and giving back graciousness, by taking in envy and giving back blessing, by taking in bitterness and giving out warmth, by taking in pettiness and giving back compassion; by taking in chaos and giving back peace, and by taking in sin and giving back forgiveness.
What is most important here is that this is not something we are asked to simply admire. We are asked to imitate it, to do in our lives what Jesus did, and in this way, keep incarnate the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We do so my living with clearly our “I AM”.