Our Lenten readings seem to get richer and richer. There are many themes that could be gleaned from this Sunday's readings but one could be this: What's happened in the past is but rubbish compared to what glories are to come for those who are faithful.
In our first reading (Isaiah 43:16-21), Isaiah prepares the Jews for the day of release from captivity in Babylon, saying it will even eclipse the great Exodus. "Remember not the things of the past." But Isaiah's prophesy goes far beyond Babylon and points to the coming of the New Jerusalem.
Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.
In our Gospel reading (John 8:1-11), we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery. It is perhaps one of the most intimate and tender stories of Jesus' healing forgiveness - that singular moment when Jesus bends down and asks, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" It should be noted that Jesus did not condone her behavior but admonished her to sin no more. In keeping with our theme from the first reading, Jesus seems to be saying, "Think not of the things of the past (you are forgiven), go now into the future of my truth and my light."
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 3:8-14), St. Paul continues our theme of forgetting what has gone before (considering it so much rubbish) while concentrating on gaining Christ and being found in him.
Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
In reflecting on our Gospel reading and the woman about to be stoned for her sins, may we consider that in some ways, She is Us! We are the ones who come to Jesus in our sinfulness and sorrow. It is Jesus who says, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." In today's words from St. Paul's Epistle, we forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead, continuing our pursuit toward the goal. There is no better place to physically hear those words, "I absolve you of your sins (neither do I condemn you)", than in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - every Wednesday at 8:45 am and every Friday from 3:30 to 4:30 pm.
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