Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Fifth Sunday of Lent

Moving Forward

Today's readings encourage us to keep moving forward, to leave the past behind and march on to new and greater things. 

In the First Reading, Isaiah 43:16-21, God speaks through the prophet, saying, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” 

God has something different in store for His people. The exile of the past will be gone. The pain of absence from the Promised Land will be erased. But things will not simply go back to being just as they were before. No. God is doing something new. He is creating rivers where there was once dry land. He is pouring out His grace over a parched world. His chosen people, once weak and dehydrated, will drink of this fountain and sing His praise. The Living Water will flow out over the entire world. 

It is time to move forward. 

The psalm response (from Psalm 126) resounds with this foretold praise: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” 

Remembering the return from exile, the psalmist laughs with joy. God has done great things for His people! They have sown their fate in tears, weeping because of the punishment their sinfulness brought down upon them. But thanks to God's mercy, they reap rejoicing, crying out with gladness at the unexpected harvest. The exile is gone; sin is conquered; they are home. 

It is time to move forward. 

In the Second Reading, Philippians 3:8-14, Paul reflects on the way his life has changed since Jesus knocked him off his horse on the way to Damascus one day. He now considers everything rubbish; he is willing to lose long as he has Jesus Christ. Paul, who was once so zealous for the Jewish Law, now realizes that the Law does not bring him the righteousness he craves. It does not save him. His righteousness and his salvation come through “faith in Christ, the righteousness from God...” Now he seeks to share Jesus' sufferings, to know the power of His resurrection, and, one day, to attain eternal life. He pushes on in hope, pursuing his goal, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead...” 

It is time to move forward. 

Today's Gospel, John 8:1-11, begins with Jesus teaching in the Temple area. The scribes and Pharisees soon arrive with a woman who has been caught in the very act of adultery. They remind Jesus that the Law of Moses calls for such a woman to be stoned, and they ask Him what He has to say about the matter. They are, of course, trying to test Him. If He tells them to go ahead and stone the woman, this would undermine His teaching on mercy and forgiveness. If He tells them to let her go, He will be violating the Law. They wait eagerly to hear His answer. 

Jesus bends down and writes on the ground. 

The scribes and Pharisees persist in their questioning, so Jesus straightens up and says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bends once again and continues to write on the ground. 

One by one the scribes and Pharisees walk away until Jesus and the woman are alone. She says nothing, just stands before Him waiting to hear her fate. Jesus stands up and asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies, “No one, sir.” Jesus looks at her with love and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” She is free. She is forgiven. 

It is time to move forward.

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