In today's passage from the Book of Exodus, God's name is revealed to Moses. Allow me to be just a little technical in explaining that name. The name by which God wishes to be known is based upon the Hebrew verb hayah, which is translated "to be" or "to cause to happen." When the syllable Ya is added to this verb, it becomes the third person singular in the masculine future tense. Thus, this new name is translated "The One who will make things happen," or "the One who will be." The question becomes: "Why do we translate it 'I am who am'"? Clearly, the English translation is not in the future tense but in the present tense.
The explanation for this change in tenses is really (at least to me) very interesting. As we know, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Latin by the scribes of the Roman Church. These men dedicated themselves to making the Scriptures accessible to those who had converted to Christianity without first becoming Jewish. Their experience of God was profoundly influenced by their experience of Jesus. They could no longer think of God in terms of the future. Their experience of God was a present reality in their daily lives. Influenced by this experience of God, they simply changed the tense of the Hebrew verb to present. To their way of thinking, God had acted, God had made things happen through Jesus. It was no longer a promise for the future; it was a promise that had been fulfilled.
Today's reading begs us to consider our own experience of God. Is God a part of our present, our daily reality? For many of us, I believe it is. Yet it is obvious that for many, God is not present because they have relegated God to a specific corner of their lives, and they do not allow God to interfere with their worldly pursuits. If God has any place in their lives, it will be in their tomorrows. However, all we are promised is today! God has no past. God has no future. God is only now. This has been revealed to us through the redemptive death and glorious resurrection of Jesus who is "I AM." No fewer than fourteen times, St. John uses this designation in revealing who God is, who Jesus is.
Before Abraham was, I AM! (John 8:58)
I AM speaks to you. (John 4:26)
I AM, fear not! (John 6:20)
I AM the Bread of Life. (John 6:35)
I AM the light of the world. (John 8:12)
I AM the witness concerning myself. (John 8:18)
If you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins. (John 8:24)
When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM. (John 8:28)
I AM the door (gate) of the sheep. (John 10:7)
I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11)
I AM the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14)
I AM the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
I AM the resurrection and the life. (John 11:25)
I AM the vine. (John 15:1)
Jesus is Lord now. We dare not wait until some day in the future to recognize him.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator