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Once again we need to emphasise and recapture the positive aspect of the Lenten Season, together with its opportunities for growth and change. One short reference from each of
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 43: 16 – 21] and THE PSALM [126 or 125] are significant.
Isaiah tells us
“remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing.” The Psalm records “what great things the Lord worked for us! Indeed, we were glad … they go out, full of tears ….. they come back with a song.”
Not only do these references make it easier to understand the results of our truly repentant appeals to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness but they remind us that there is an urgent need to find new ways for renewal, conversion and the strengthening of real faith. When all is said and done this is the main Lenten invitation and challenge. The days of hairshirts are over. There are more effective means of true penance and sacrifice. I should imagine it is very difficult to sing a song when encumbered with a hairshirt?!
Lent calls us to open ourselves to know the real person of Jesus Christ a little better and in a more personal way. In
OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 3: 8 – 14] Saint Paul speaks of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. … and be found in him … through faith …” Then Paul repeats much of what has been quoted from Isaiah by saying – ” forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Of course Lent calls us to special efforts but the results of these shouldbecome a living part of our future …. not like a hairshirt that is removed on Easter Sunday!
Do not be afraid of breaking new ground
. The prophet Jeremiah tells us to “break up your fallow ground, do not sow among thorns.” (Some translations render break up your fallow ground as – drive a new furrow.) (4:3) Unless I am willing tobreak new ground, these last two weeks before Easter will be much like wading in the water instead of swimming – and we end up carrying the burden of mediocrity. ‘Correctness’ can become a terrible inhibition. We can become so proficient with the basics that a part of us becomes deficient.
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 8: 1 – 11]
should be understood against this background. We are told that “Jesus sat down and taught them.” He was, be assured, not teaching the same rather weary curriculum taught by the scribes and Pharisees. They deliberately interrupted the lesson by “placing her in their midst,” and trying to obtain “some charge to bring against him.” They were afraid of the new ground Jesus was breaking and much preferred the safe ground of sowing among the thorns – and were obsessed with ‘correctness’.
The Church must be extremely careful not to fall into the same trap
. We all know there are many Catholics (clerical and lay, leaders and followers) who fear the breaking if new ground by Pope Francis, and his lack of interest in sowing among the thorns. The scribes and Pharisees had lost the plot. We must be careful not to do the same.
The Gospel does not, in any way, suggest that Jesus was ‘soft’ on adultery. However, it does teach us that he was interested in the sinner – the person involved – and so his lesson focusses on the mercy of God, on repentance, forgiveness and conversion. The Lord is interested in the person’s future. He had not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it.
We must, however, not miss Jesus’ teaching ‘plan’. He makes a statement by confronting the accusers: “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” A good and honest look at ourselves is enormously helpful with the judgements and condemnations so many are quick to pass.
So we end where we started with Isaiah “remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing.”
We must do the same!