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2013 Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sometimes when we recall unpleasant memories and experience we have feelings of bitterness, regrets, shame and blame. We find it very difficult to let go of hurtful events of the past. Sometimes we fail to forgive people who have hurt us and move on with our lives.

The message in today’s liturgy is one of encouragement; encouragement to let go of the old way of life and embrace the new life that Christ offers us. The period of Lent focuses in a new way of life in Christ. We are called to open our hearts and allow God to recreate us into new beings.

Today’s first reading and the gospel bring out the aspect of letting go of the past and allow ourselves to be recreated, made new. The two readings present an encouragement to all of us that we should not be held captives of our past problems, mistakes and failures. We need to move on in life because God is always in control. God always intervenes and provides a new way of life.

When the Israelite people were in exile in Babylon, they felt humiliated and depressed. They started wondering why God had abandoned them; why He was not performing mighty deeds to free them as God had done in the past with their ancestors. God reminded them that what He is going to do will be greater than the past wonders. They should not think of the past because He is going to bring the new exodus. In the first reading God said to the people, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing” (Is 43:18-19). God reminded the people of Israel not to regret, feel defeated or humiliated because He would continue to show His love to them.

God is telling us today that we need to focus on the new deed He is doing for us. Through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, God is going to inaugurate new life for us. It is this new life which we should accept, a life which demands love, peace, justice, respect for human life and reconciliation. During these remaining days towards Easter, we are challenged to bury the past so that we rise with Christ in a new way. The paschal mystery is the new exodus through which we move from sin to freedom and from death to life.

Today’s Gospel, John 8: 1-11, presents an episode of a woman caught in adultery and then was condemned by the community but acquitted by Jesus. The Pharisees and the Scribes dragged her before Jesus and demanded that she be sentenced by stoning her to death according to the law. She was full of fear, shame, guilt, anger, loneliness and self-pity. These men have no regard for her. They did not even consider that she did not act alone in the adultery. Where was the man in all of this? A clear case of gender bias!

Everyone condemned her and despised her for her adulterous act. Maybe she condemned and blamed herself. She was going through terrible guilt and shame. She might have regarded herself as less than nothing as a person. Did Jesus feel the same way about her? No! Jesus did something that changed her life and her self-image by forgiving her unconditionally, without any condemnation. He challenged her accusers to look at their own lives before passing judgement on her. “If there is anyone of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”(Jn 8:7). Instead of condemning her, Jesus becomes her defender.

It was a liberating experience for her to have met this man who was interested in restoring her life and dignity. She encountered someone who had a different way of looking at sinners. He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? …. Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin anymore.” Those were words of healing which opened a new life for her. Jesus helped her to forget the past

and to start a new life of love, joy, and hope. He helped her to be whole and complete again. For her, there was “no need to remember former things or consider the things of old” because Jesus has done a new deed in her life. Jesus opened a new way of life for her.

God is calling us during this Lenten season to a new way of life. He looks at our past and forgives our past as long as we show remorse and repentance. God always leads us to the future with love and compassion. God is encouraging us that we should not walk with sad faces and broken hearts because of our past mistakes and guilt feelings. Our vocation as Christians is to live a joyful and meaningful life. We need to hope for the new way of life offered by Jesus. As St. Paul says in the second reading, “….this is one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”.

Let us allow Jesus to do what he did for the adulterous woman. We need to present ourselves to Jesus especially through the sacrament of reconciliation so that we could hear him say what he said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you, go away and do not sin anymore.” The experience of this woman should be our own experience especially during this time of Lent. She was dragged to Jesus by the Pharisees and Scribes but we need to drag ourselves to Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation.

As we approach Easter, Jesus is encouraging us not to be depressed about our past mistakes and failures but we must try to be good in spite of our weaknesses.

Reflection:
1. Our society is full of people who are regarded as ‘outcastes’. These include the prostitutes, street children, victims of HIV/AIDS, prisoners, refugees, the poor and people with different political affiliations. What is our attitude to such people?
2. What burden/s am I carrying from the past that hinder me from developing my relationship with God and other people?

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life and the gift of each other.

Help me, Lord, to be always attentive to your voice which is calling me to live a new way of life in the risen Christ.

Grant me you Spirit, so that I may become an instrument of your love and mercy. May I hasten to do any good or kindness to any human being. Amen

Practice: Today I will be slow to judge, condemn and blame others for their wrong doing but quick to
encourage them and make them feel accepted.

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