March 17, 2013 –– Fifth Sunday of Lent
If there is one consistent message in the readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, it is that we must look to the future, not to the past. As Catholic Christians, we are a people of eternity, a people who concentrate on the hope and promise of our Lord and Savior. Jesus reminds us many times that His “Kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn 18:36)
Living a life of stewardship places a person with an eye always on that other kingdom. St. Augustine once wrote that “A life of holiness does not lead one to Jesus, but Jesus can lead one to a life of holiness.” That is our challenge as good stewards — to keep our eyes on the Lord, our minds open to His Word, and our hearts open to His love. If we do that in the present, the past will not weigh heavily upon us, and the future will take care of itself.
The first reading from Isaiah reinforces the idea of looking to the future, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new.” The passage goes on to speak of the release of the Israelites from captivity. It is the harbinger of what it is to come — Jesus’ redemption of us, so that we can be a part of His Kingdom.
St. Paul reminds the Philippians in the second reading that their focus must be on what is to come, not on what has been or what may be. Paul views what he calls the “finish line” in the last verse of the reading: “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward that goal, the prize of God’s upward calling.” As we continue our Lenten journeys, this is an excellent reminder — we are striving toward Easter, but we are also striving toward Christ — we must not lose our focus.
The Gospel, as is often the case, brings it all together. What the woman had done in the past was not the focus of what Jesus tried to teach. There are two important elements in His teaching, both of which we need to take note. First, He forgives the sin of the woman, but tells her to “Go and sin no more.” He is trying to bring her to repentance by showing her His mercy. However, a second factor, equally important, is the Lord’s effort to show the “prosecutors” their sins. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He is providing us with two cautions, both notable to us during Lent in particular. Not only are we to strive to be without sin, but also we are called to avoid the sin of self-righteousness, the sin of not being forgiving ourselves.
If we truly attempt to live lives of stewardship, we must keep in mind that we follow that way of life as a “calling.” However, we are not to condemn others because they fail to live that way. We also must remember to love all regardless whether we think they are “good” people or not. All of this is fulfilled because we understand that our rewards are in Heaven, not necessarily on earth — in the future, not in the present. The eminent scholar, author, and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis put it this way: “When Christians cease to think of the other world in their future is when they become ineffective in this world.”