March 13, 2016 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
Our Lenten journeys are reaching an end, or at least they should be. Have we made the effort expected of us to make changes, to truly seek to continue our conversion? Today’s readings serve as reminders to us of what Lent means and what we should have been striving to do for the past several weeks.
The prophet Isaiah often provides good advice to us through his revelations of the Words of God. In today’s First Reading God declares, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new.” At the beginning of this Lenten season we were asked to do the same thing, but the question is, “Are we really doing something new?” It is not too late for us to do that. It is not too late for us to make the kinds of changes — the conversions — we need to make. However, now is the time, not later.
One of the ways for us to bring about these conversions is to come to “know” Jesus. This can only be accomplished by carefully preparing and praying and reflecting. In the Second Reading, St. Paul speaks of how he has come to know Jesus, how he (Paul) has developed the deep relationship with the Lord which is necessary. Do we know Jesus?
“Knowing” Him does not simply mean that we are familiar with His story and His significance to us. We may be aware of much about Jesus, but to truly “know” Him requires something much deeper. Paul makes reference to knowing Jesus and the “power of His resurrection.” That is an important aspect of what we are doing in preparation for Easter — coming to fully know the “power of His resurrection.”
Jesus is conveying this power to us right now, during Lent. It is a life-giving power. Just as He approaches his death and resurrection, we do the same.
The other way of “knowing” Jesus to which Paul makes reference is the “sharing of His sufferings.” We, too, should be moving toward Calvary. It is not just a question of following Jesus, but we are called to be “in” Him at this time. St. Paul also said in his letter to the Romans, “If children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom 8:17) As we complete our Lenten preparations, we must remember that being in Christ also means being in His death.
That sense of identifying with Christ culminates in our Gospel Reading from St. John. This Gospel relates one of the best-known stories relating to Jesus’ mercy, the story of the accused adulteress, whom the Pharisees use to again test Jesus. Perhaps the most common quote we hear from this Gospel is “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In this Year of Mercy, and especially during Lent, it is well for us to remember that we are called to love, not be judgmental. There are so many times in our lives, and so many people in our lives who have borne judgment from us.
Not only is this a time for mercy, but also it is important for us to be forgiving as Jesus is. This can be our way of doing “something new”; of being one with Jesus and knowing Him as He would have us do; and most important, to find forgiveness in our hearts and to reconcile with those from whom we may be alienated. God loves us, and we must love others.