C Cycle – 5th Sunday of Lent 19
It is a shame we as Catholics do not read and meditate on the scriptures as a normal part of our spiritual life. The simple truth is we do seek spiritual growth by study, inquiry and many other spiritual exercises other than reading and refection on the Word of God.
We seem to be satisfied by our hearing the passages read to us during Sunday or week day mass. But the truth is, we cannot remember what the readings were one hour after we leave church. This means we are unable to apply the truths reveled to us through them to help us grow spiritually therefore they have no impact on our lives. The sad truth is we are missing out on God’s revelation of his desires for us and because we do not know His desires, we cannot understand how God’s plan to achieve those desires can be fulfilled other than by or through our own efforts.
Just listen to the ways God is telling us today in the scriptures how much he has in store for us if we only would open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to receive. He tells us as we approach the end of our Lenten sacrifices to “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not, see I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I put waters in the desert, rivers in the wasteland for my people.” From my twenty years of ministering to people I have learned how we have a real issue with forgetting our past. Forgetting our failings is not only difficult for us, but our memory of it motivates us to somehow make amends with the hope God will be lenient when it comes time for us to be judged.
This is why reading the Word of God for revelation not study is important for us because God from the beginning of His relationship with us not only tells us but shows us how he forgives all sin and remembers our guilt no more. You have heard me refer to the many scriptures where He tells us He forgives and forgets so I am not going to repeat those passages to you today. But God’s desire to forgive and forget is clearly and unequivocally spoken to us in the scriptures and in the stories and parables. God will forgive and forget every sin if only we seek his forgiveness. Seek it because feeling His forgiveness changes us and moves us to become disciples helping others to encounter God’s love. Forgiveness is ours not because we grovel and beg for it but because God desires to transform our hearts out of love not because we earn it. However, receiving forgiveness from God demands something from us that goes beyond vowing not to break the law any more.
Feeling God’s forgiveness has the power to change us because we know we deserve to be punished not rewarded with love. If we pay attention to the scriptures, we will easily see why Paul expresses his willingness to depend on God’s forgiveness as his fuel to live according to God’s plan not his own. Paul was determined and committed to arresting and destroying those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah until he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.
His story is a familiar one that is easy for us to read as Paul’s story and not see in it our own story of how misguided we can become. Paul was not condemned by Jesus during his encounter but instead he was told to search his heart for his unwillingness to see the plan of God as revealed in Jesus death and resurrection. Why are you so stubborn and blind was the question Jesus asked of Paul and it is the same question Jesus asks of us? Why are we doing what we are doing instead of embracing the only way to salvation – Jesus Christ.
We should be able to say with conviction the same things Paul said of himself which is there is “nothing compared with knowing Jesus Christ.” The key word is Knowing – a kind of knowing that comes from opening ourselves up to be loved through a physical union with Jesus Christ. The same root word used here by Paul for “know” is found in Genesis 4:1 “Adam knew Eve and she conceives and bore a son…” We need this kind of knowing Jesus in order to feel how love forgives and forgets and transforms us from sinners to disciples and saints.
Paul tells us today that kind of knowing is only found through a personal contact with Jesus and leads us to understand “any righteousness we have is because of Christ not because we follow the law.” All we have sought through our Lenten sacrifices should not be because we expect to gain us merit but instead to gain us insights of how any righteousness, we have is a gift from God. This then will lead us to a desire to grow to know him intimately and understand how the power flowing from His resurrection changes us.
All of this is revealed to us through the scriptures in today’s first and second reading but in case we are too blinded by our own inability to move from the past God also gives us today a wonderful parable of forgiveness. A parable that contradicts everything we believe about law and punishment and how right is to be rewarded and wrong must be punished. The parable of the woman caught in adultery leaves nothing to the imagination. There is no disputing she is caught in the act of adultery and the law is also very clear. She deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law. Notice how Jesus does not respond to their question on the law and how she must be punished but instead tells them to look into their own hearts.
We so easily look at the sins of others and comparing ourselves to them feel good about ourselves. We forget that sin against God is sin and we cannot quibble about greater or lesser sin because in the end we sinned because we desired the forbidden fruit. But the contrasts of the sin of murder versus the sin of envy is another discussion for another day. The real issue in today’s parable is how Jesus responded to the woman as she stood in front of Him with all her sins revealed. Is there no one here to condemn you he asks?
Today he asks that same question – is there no one here to condemn you? Do we accept His forgiveness, or do we hang on to the memory of it to motivate us keep us from intimacy with God?