The prophet Isaiah sets the tone for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, when he proclaims God’s word: “Remember not the events of the past … see I am doing something new!” In the closing weeks of Lent, we are reminded that, as much as this season focuses on our repentance and our belief in the Gospel (remember the exhortation of Ash Wednesday), it is more about the work of God helping us to fulfill that goal. God has worked and continues to work to bring about the “new creation” that is our life together in Jesus Christ.
The new life is evident in the prophet Isaiah’s words to the people in exile in Babylon. The prophet recalls the events of God’s saving work at the Exodus in order to help the people see that God was working something new: their restoration and redemption. God was now strengthening His relationship with the people that that He had formed for himself so “that they might announce his praise.”
In the Gospel passage about the woman caught in adultery, not only the woman but also the scribes and Pharisees who bring her to Jesus learn that God is doing something new. Jesus gives them all the opportunity to see and act in a new way by helping them acknowledge and reflect on their own sin. Condemnation gives way to compassion, respect, and mercy. Jesus does not condemn the woman and exhorts her to begin anew: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” This is the same spirit and grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we receive forgiveness of sin, are made new, and enabled to make a fresh start.
For his part, St. Paul also appreciated the newness of what God has done for him in Christ. As accomplished as he was in his practice of the Jewish faith and his observance of the Law, Paul came to realize that God had accomplished so much more for him and for all of us in Jesus Christ. Paul considered all as loss in order that he might “gain Christ and be found in him … having a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ… and that depends on knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.” Paul knew that he, and we, are called to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead… the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
As we approach the celebration of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we do well to reflect not only on the events by which God has made us all a new creation in Christ at Baptism, but also on the ways God continues to work something new in us as we prepare to renew our Baptismal promises at Easter.
Today, we pray that, with the help of God’s love and mercy, we will continue to be open to the ways God forms us for himself. With Saint Paul, may we accept the loss of all that we do not need so that we may gain Christ and be found in him. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, may we continue in the pursuit of our goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
By: Fr. Stephen Salocks
Saint John's Seminary
Forming Disciples. Proclaiming Jesus Christ.
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