LENTEN SUNDAY 5 – Year C – 17 March

A few family members on a recent visit from the United States stayed with me for four days. On departure they presented me with some

(exact number is an entirely personal matter!) bottles of good wine. My vintner’s bible, in discussing this particular vintage, informed me to “stock up for the summer months!”

The same should apply to us as we begin the final Lenten days before Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We really should in this Fifth Week of Lent stock up. There is a need for us to gather our resources, sharpen focuses, and brace ourselves before we arrive at Palm Sunday.

No good will be achieved if our arrival at the Palm Sunday Eucharist finds us, so to speak, caught by surprise.

This week’s

OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [ISAIAH 43: 16 – 21] says it all. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing.” In other words we must accept the opportunity to prepare ourselves to accept this coming Holy Week as a time of real renewal. This will not happen if we simply plod along, regularly thinking of how many more days to go before we can have that first glass of wine (given-up for Lent), and not use these days to bolster our sagging enthusiasms. This week must challenge us to invite the Lord to “do a new thing” with and in us.

“Remember not”

the prophet tells us. At this stage of the proceedings, the degree of achievement with ourLenten endeavours is irrelevant. More importantly, it is time for us to FLUSH all those old sins, failures, and regrets which have the bad habit of ‘jumping out’ at us. What is past, is past. Recall the proclaimed words of Saint Paul on Ash Wednesday: “now is the favourable time.” NOW …. THIS WEEK! I have always remembered advice given to me by a wise Marist Brother when I was in Standard Nine (sorry! – Grade 11!) …. “You pass your Matric THIS year, not next.” How right he was! It is this week, if we choose to do so, that the Lord, with our cooperation, “will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert … give drink to my chosen people.” THIS WEEK – NOT NEXT!

Here,

TODAY’S PSALM [126 OR 125] has a real message for each one of us. “They go out, full of tears, bearing seed for the sowing; they come back, they come back with a song, bearing their sheaves.” Notice the underlined words! We have to sow the seeds for Holy Week, this week.

To all of this, add the counsel given to us by Saint Paul in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [PHILIPPINAS 3: 8 – 14]. There we hear the words which proclaim “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press towards the goal …” In some very real, perhaps strange, way our goal is Palm, not Easter, Sunday. If we start Holy Week with all our resources gathered together then, as Paul tells us today, we begin Holy Week “knowing him and the power of his resurrection.” This is the week when we should be hearing “the upward call” to which Paul refers.

Now, return to this Sunday’s Psalm, and reflect on the words “what great deeds the Lord worked for them!

What great deeds the Lord worked for us! Indeed, we were glad.” This is what we must capture for ourselves this week – knowing, clearly, before Palm Sunday why we are glad. Jesus has worked wonders in the past, and does so in the present. We should know them already, and proceed into Holy Week to CELEBRATE them – not hear them for the first time.

In this context,

TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 8: 1 – 11] has something very special to offer.As happened so often, the scribes and Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus. We should take into account that “it was not just women who were supposed to be punished for this offence.” {NICHOLAS KING, SJ} The same author tells us that, when the hypocrites have departed the woman is “no longer treated as bait, but as a human being, invited to speak for herself, and regarded by Jesus as a responsible adult.”

Holy Week is not a trap to catch us out and induce guilt. We are not to see ourselves as bait to make a catch or, worse still, to be judged. Rather, we must see ourselves as invited to speak for ourselves as responsible adults.

This fifth week of Lent is the time for us to accept and embrace the realities of the Lord’s great deeds. We are, as the woman in today’s Gospel was reminded, no longer exiles. We have already been brought back.

This is the week when we pass the test.