FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT – APRIL 1, 2001 – BLESSED SACRAMENT
Our readings today are about new possibilities, the possibilities of beginning something new, of becoming something new.
The first reading comes from a portion of the Book of Isaiah in which the prophet is addressing Israel in exile. Although he recalls the founding event of the Exodus, of God’s liberation of Israel from Israel through the Red Sea, he does so only to urge the people not to focus on those pasts deeds. “See,” God says through him, “I am doing something new!” It is the promise of a return from exile, a passage through a desert transformed into a garden; it is a new Exodus. The first Exodus is recalled in order to provoke faith in a new Exodus.
In the Gospel-reading, the woman caught in adultery faces death in the strictures of the Law are maintained. Jesus challenges those who were eager to apply the law, asking them how many of them could claim to be sinless. And his challenge wins the woman her freedom, and the possibility of the new life that Jesus enjoins on her.
And, finally, in our second reading, Paul speaks of the future he desires. He considers the life he lived before he knew Christ as so much garbage; and yet he does not feel he has reached his goal. He uses the image of a runner in a race who has made some progress, but can’t dwell on what he has already done but strains forward to what lies ahead, searching for the goal, the prize to which God is calling him. And in the middle of the description of the knowledge for which he learns he says he wants “to know Christ 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.”
These are great Lenten themes. The imagery of the Exodus will dominate the climactic days of Holy Week when the whole Church sees in it a symbol of our liberation from slavery and from exile. At the Easter Vigil men and women will go down into the waters of baptism, symbolic of Christ’s death, and will arise from them experiencing the power of his resurrection. And we who have already been baptized will be asked to renew the commitments that defined the death we underwent and the resurrection into new life that define what it means to be a Christian. Lent and Easter are about new possibilities, about breaking the chains of habit and experiencing a power that can bring experiences of liberation that can be compared to a resurrection from the dead.
But this requires that we enter into the drama of the days, which is not just the drama of Israel, not just the drama of Jesus Christ, but is also the drama of our own lives. We have an opportunity for the new life that Jesus opened for the adulterous woman. And we ought to take advantage of it, not only by participating in the rites of the holy week that begins next Sunday, but also by taking part in services of reconciliation available to us both in this parish and in other parishes of the archdiocese. These can be moments when we hear the assurance of his loving forgiveness and can feel what Paul felt: the power of resurrection into new life.