Encountering God, we Cannot Remain the Same

5th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran 

We are just one week away from the Holy Week and away from our celebration of God’s love shown in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For us, this season of Lent is a time of special grace in which we experience the presence of a God who cares and loves us. Our response is to transform ourselves and to live according to his will. Before him, we acknowledge our weakness and we know that he is the one who supports us and builds with us new relationships we ought to change our lives during Lent and come closer to him.

In today’s First Reading, we heard the prophetic Words of the Lord God speaking to the prophet Isaiah. Yahweh begins by identifying Himself. He says that it was He who created Israel. It was He who led the Exodus of His people under the leadership of Moses. It was He who divided the Red Sea and who destroyed the great army of the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was He who quenched the life out of the enemies of His people. God tells them to look ahead and not to look back into the past. The past always closes our minds and does not allow us to see things in the present moment as they are. The Lord promises to the people, “I am about to do a new thing for I am about to create new heavens and a new earth, and former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

In the second reading of today, St. Paul tells the church of Philippi to break away from its past. St. Paul presents his reflections on how much God loves him, He says I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look at everything so much as rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. In his search for perfection, he observed all the rules and norms as a Pharisee, but ultimately he found the meaning in Christ. He accepted the loss of all things that he might gain Christ.

The Gospel of today places before us an episode that emphasizes the need to examine ourselves and avoid passing any judgment on others. Generally, there is a tendency within us to find fault in others and to condemn them. As we approach the end of the Lenten season, we are reminded of the great opportunity to cooperate with God’s special graces. The Gospel presents to us a sharp contrast between the cruelty and wickedness of the scribes and Pharisees and the compassion of Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees had no regard for the woman caught in adultery and brought her to Jesus the master. They were only interested in using her to try to trap Jesus. Jesus places a bigger challenge before the accusers. He asks them to consider their actions and their shortcomings. He tells them to look into themselves before passing any judgment on others.

Jesus has forgiven the woman’s sin and expects her to live from now on in a life of grace and union with God by not sinning anymore. He gives her a chance to change her life completely. The Pharisees and the Scribes were proud and arrogant and preferred to judge. They had no idea how to love, how to forgive but only how to observe the Law externally. They did not love God’s people.

Once a person is touched by God and has received His divine command, he cannot remain the same person. That was the experience of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and several others who came into close contact with him and remained united to Him. In the Word of God today, we heard the divine message that God makes all things new. Jesus gives us a basic command that helps us to identify that we are on our way to reaching union with Him. We must persevere in our living faith. As Jesus said to the woman so he tells us Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.

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