The words don't seem all that shocking to us. “I am.” So simple. To us perhaps rather vague. They might elicit a response of “You are what?”
But the Jews had a very different response when Jesus spoke those words. They picked up stones to throw at Jesus.
Why? What was so important about those words “I am”? What made the Jews take such offense?
“I am” is more than a short sentence; it is also, in Hebrew, the divine name God revealed to Moses from the burning bush. Yahweh. The name was sacred. The Jews wouldn't even pronounce it, but here was Jesus saying it right out loud and, what's more, applying it to Himself.
We recognize the truth of those words. Of course Jesus can speak the divine name and even apply it to Himself. We know that He is God. He is perfectly within His rights. But the Jews didn't see it like that. They didn't believe in Jesus' divinity, so all they heard was blasphemy, and they reached for their stones.
Friday – Believe the Works
In today's Gospel, the Jews say that they don't believe Jesus' claim that He is the Son of God sent by the Father Who remains in Him.
Jesus responds by inviting the Jews to examine the evidence before them. “If I do not perform My Father's works, do not believe Me,” He says, “but if I perform them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works...” What are these works? People receive healing from long-term or even lifelong ailments. The dead come back to life. Sinners repent. The crowds hear God's word. Love flows out from all sides. How could these wonders not come from the Father? How could they not be signs that God has truly come among His people?
Many of the Jews still stubbornly refuse to believe, but some are convinced. They see the works, and they begin to believe Jesus' words of life.
Saturday – Hear and Proclaim
Hear the word of God, and proclaim it. Thus says the prophet Jeremiah in today's Responsorial Psalm. Hear and proclaim.
The first step is to hear, in Hebrew shāma. This is more than merely letting the words wash over one's ears. It implies paying close attention, giving heed, understanding, and obeying. In this kind of hearing, the words enter into the depths of the hearer and take effect. They change something in the hearer's mind and heart, and that change leads to action based on the words heard.
Part of that action is proclamation, in Hebrew the verb nāgad. The words heard become the words spoken and shared. The hearer becomes a messenger who boldly stands up and announces what he knows to be true. Nothing remains hidden. The truth springs forth clearly, vividly to meet and transform the next hearer.
(Information about Hebrew vocabulary comes from http://www.biblehub.com/.)