Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C See I am doing something new

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Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C

Reading 1: Through the prophet Isaiah God recalls how he delivered the people from bondage in Egypt by parting the waters for them to cross. At the same time he made the waters return, enveloping the pursuing Egyptian charioteers. Then God says: “Remember not the things of the past; see I am about to do something new.” In other words, learn from the past but don’t live in the past like your ancestors who wanted to return to their life in Egypt.

This message is addressed to the people who again have found themselves exiled from the Promised Land. They too had rebelled and presumed on the mercy of God while they broke the covenant. As a consequence they were conquered by their enemies and sent to exile for a period of time—a time of chastisement and purification.

Now, that time is about to end and they would return to the Promised Land. This is the something new God was about to do for them. He would provide what they would need to return. He would make a way and provide for their sustenance. Once they saw this the people would praise God for his mercy.

Reading 2: Paul picks up this theme of remembering not the past but live in the present moment, opened to the new thing God is doing. He says: “I consider everything as a lost (that is the past), because of the greater good of knowing Christ.” All he wanted to do was to be open to the gifts of mercy God had for him in Christ Jesus, who was his righteousness and salvation.

Paul wanted to embrace the cross in his own life, sharing in the suffering of Jesus in order to be open to the resurrected life offered by Jesus. In all this, Paul kept the prize of eternal life before him. What would happen to us if we did this? What would happen to us if we kept our eyes on the goal and make decisions and actions based on this?

Gospel: All of us have a past. Some of us may have a past that was not good. Look at Paul who persecuted the followers of Jesus. Paul concurred with the stoning of Stephen. Paul was zealot for the Law, like the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel. They were more concerned with others’ past than their own. In so doing, they kept people enslaved to that past.

But Jesus reminds us today again: “Remember not the past; embrace the grace of the present moment as you move towards the eternal life God has for you.

The scribes of Pharisees were sticklers for the Law. Externally that was their motive. According to the Law of Moses a person caught in the act of adultery was to be stoned to death. The justice of the Law demanded this. What they had not done was bring the male partner of the woman for the same judgment. Internally, they were using the woman caught in adultery to try to trap Jesus.

Jesus’ response initially seem strange. He said nothing, only bent down and wrote in the dirt. Jesus was showing them mercy in spite of their sinful hearts. When they persisted, Jesus levels the playing field by saying: “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.” He didn’t look at them for a response for he knew their sinfulness hidden beneath their self-righteousness. Recognizing that Jesus had now trapped them, they left one by one.

At the same time, Jesus didn’t justify the woman’s past misdeeds, but offered her the same mercy and forgiveness he offered her accusers. By being publicly humiliated, exposed and shamed the woman needed to know God’s mercy and forgiveness. All Jesus said was: “Go and sin no more.”

Our sin is our past. Mercy and forgiveness are the graces of the present moment. This is the new thing God is doing for us. The prize is before us. Go and sin no more.

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