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Scripture Reflections - April 7
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:8-14
John 8:1-11

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we need to perk up the ears of our hearts when God says to a despondent people in exile to look forward, not backward, as though this moment in which they hear Isaiah’s prophecy is really the first day of their lives. He tells them to forget the past, for He has decided to do something new! This prophecy is really a veiled reference to the Father’s decision to send His Son, Jesus, as Messiah. By his sacrifice, He will bring them out of their vicious cycle of sinning. How sad that hundreds of years later, when their descendants saw their Messiah in the flesh, they failed to remember Isaiah’s words that God was doing something new!

In the light of that first reading, we can better understand that mercy is the “something new” in the message of Jesus. The Gospel describes what incredible mercy Jesus shows towards the woman in today’s Gospel. There is no question that she is guilty as well as the man involved. The law in Deuteronomy clearly says they should both be put to death by stoning.

For the time being, the Pharisees have placed the woman squarely in front of Jesus, hoping to trap him into saying something incriminating. By writing on the ground, Jesus cleverly shifts the attention to the sins of those about to stone her to death. Here, indeed, is “something new,” and the Pharisees immediately see that Jesus has placed them in the trap! The elders among them are the first so acknowledge that Jesus has won the test, and they are the first to drop their stones and slink away. The others follow, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Without excusing her sin, He merely tells her she is free to leave, but to “sin no more.” What surprises and delights us here is that the Lord has placed something new into the Law – He now includes MERCY – mercy is now a part of justice!

The second reading on Sunday doesn’t always fit the meaning of the other two readings, but it does today. St. Paul tells the Philippians that in the light of our faith, Jesus has redeemed our sins, and in the power of His Resurrection, we now have God’s mercy as the reason for our hope and joy. Now, it will be much easier to “strain ahead” each day in pursuit of that goal to which Jesus and His Spirit calls us. This Fifth Sunday brings us more joy than we had expected.

Now we should be convinced that Lent is truly a seedtime of hope for the glory to come.

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