5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C
Let us pray [for the courage to follow Christ]…
Help us to be like Christ your Son,
Who loved the world and died for our salvation.
Inspire us by his love,
Guide us by his example,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. AMEN
1st Reading — Isaiah 43: 16-21
The author of 2nd Isaiah referred to the Babylonian captivity as similar to the exodus event, The exiles were awaiting their release in an alien land. Isaiah is reminding them of how God had saved them in history, and would surely do so again. Thus, through their remembering, God would continue to be present to them, (Birmingham, W&W, p. 170). How does this speak to you?
2nd Reading — Philippians 3: 8-14
Paul was concerned over the philosophies that were threatening to undermine the gospel. Judaizers and Gnostics were coming at the gospel from 2 different threatening positions. Judaizers were trying to impost their old legalisms on the new gentiles: all must be circumcised, all must adhere to strict dietary regulations, etc. Gnostics, on the other hand, believed that a person was perfectly “just” simply because of baptism; baptism was all that was necessary. For Paul, justice is only realized through Jesus and oyr faith is his saving power. Justice, like an unfinished race, was not yet perfected and is still in process (Birmingham, W&W, p. 171). How are you still in process? How might the extremes in your life be smoothed out in Christ?
Notice that we are not called to perfection…we will never get there in this life. We are called to continue our pursuit in Christ with great hope! As in Thomas Merton’s prayer, “…the fact that I think that I am following your will does not meanthat I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.”
The Gospel — John 8: 1-11:
In the eyes of the Jewish law adultery was a serious crime. Adultery was one of the 3 gravest sins, up there with idolatry and murder. But the Pharisees and scribes are trying to entrap Jesus. Instead of answering their question of what to do with the adulterous woman, Jesus writes in the ground. Why does he doe this? Wm. Barclay has 4 hypotheses:
- He may have wanted to gain time and bring it to God.
- He may have been trying to allow time for the Pharisees and scribes to realize the cruelty behind the action.
- He may have wanted to hide his face because he felt such shame in their request. “It may well be that the leering, lustful look on the faces of the scribes and Pharisees, the bleak cruelty in their eyes, the prurient curiosity of the crowd, the shame of the woman, all combined to twist the very heart of Jesus in agony and pity, so that he hid his eyes, “ (Barclay, The Gospel of John Vol. 2, p.3).
- An Armenian manuscript translates this passage this way, “He himself, bowing his head, was writing with his finger on the earth to declare their sins; and they were seeing their several sins on the stones, (p.3).
There are still those who regard a position of authority as giving them the right to condemn and the duty to punish. They think that such authority has given them the right to be moral watch-dogs trained to tear the sinner to pieces; but all true authority is founded on sympathy. When George Whitefield saw the criminal on the way to the gallows, he uttered the famous sentence: “There, but for the grace of god, go I, “(p.5).
God uses his authority to love men and women into goodness; to God no person ever becomes a thing. We must use such authority as we have always to understand and always at least to try to mend the person who has made the mistake; as we will never even begin to do that unless we remember that every man and woman is a person, not a thing (p. 6). How does this all pertain to you in your life?
Let us pray:
Christ, help us become what we receive:
forgiven, may we forgive.
uncondemned, let us throw down our stones.
Christ, you are God’s constant gift to us, always present, ever-new.
You are the glorious within our hum-drum everyday lives.
You are the water in the desert; a river in the wasteland of our lives.
Let us drink deeply of your presence and quench our thirst. Amen.