I Thought You Should Know | Repent your sins and God will respond with mercy

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 17

Isaiah 43:16-21

Philippians 3:8-14

John 8:1-11 

Only God can take the abuse God gets! Only God can endure so much abuse and respond to it with mercy and forgiveness! But that is the God who is revealing Himself to us!

Through Isaiah, God is telling the Israelites, "Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!" Israel can never forget how God took them out of slavery in Egypt and led them through the Red Sea, all the while pursued by Pharaoh. Yet, as great as this event was, it pales in comparison to what God has in mind!

That is a very bold statement, but what follows is even bolder. "In the desert I will make a way, in the wastelands, rivers." Here God is talking about much more than watering a geographical desert! He is hinting at a new creation, where water stands for the Holy Spirit and the desert stands for man's thirsty hearts!

Today's Gospel story is about the adulterous woman. However, it is not really about the adulterous woman, because our first question is, "Where is the adulterous man?" The Gospel is really about the adulterous scribes and Pharisees. They are the ones who have broken the marriage covenant with God. God's covenant says, "Thou shalt not kill," yet they are willing to kill the author of life itself, in order to preserve their status in society, a status of keeping the people burdened by their uncovenantal laws that enslave the masses.

The adulterous woman does not deny her guilt, and therefore she is forgiven. The scribes and Pharisees cannot admit their guilt, and therefore they cannot be forgiven.

When guilt is acknowledged with compunction and sorrow, the river of grace flows through the desert of the human heart. We see this in the woman, when Jesus says, "Does not anyone condemn you?" and she responds, "No one, Lord." Then she hears these life-changing words that transform her self-concept, "Then neither do I. Go and sin no more." The river of God's mercy cleanses her heart and nourishes all those areas that have been seeking love and acceptance in the wrong places.

She knows she is loved and is not about to run from Jesus. She stays and receives mercy. The scribes and Pharisees have closed themselves off from Jesus' love, so they run away to hide their sins from Him, as if that indeed were possible.

We never hear more about the woman who embraced God's mercy. On the other hand, in today's second reading, St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, we see how that river of mercy continues to flow through a man who was confronted by the mercy of the risen Christ. He had a murderous heart when Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. Once he had undergone a profound conversion, he became a river of God's truth, of God's love, and of God's zeal for souls!

Now he rejoices, because instead of murderous thoughts flowing through his heart, it is the power of the cross of Christ flowing through him. His greatest joy is to know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection.

He now has a hunger to share in Christ's sufferings so that one day he may share in the resurrection of Christ.

Remember in today's first reading God tells us, "See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wastelands, rivers ..."

In St. Paul, that something new is a new creation, Paul is being transformed into Christ because Christ has grasped him! Paul's greatest joy is suffering with Christ in bringing souls to Him. The river of Christ's life and love is flowing through him. This renews and energizes him and fills him with joy!

Don't you envy Paul? I do! I would love to love to suffer for Christ and with Christ, as Paul loves suffering with Christ!

When it comes to suffering for the kingdom, Paul would say, "Bring it on! I want to enter more deeply into His passion. I want to suffer with Him so as to bring to others the supreme joy of knowing Him!"

What is holding you and me back from knowing Jesus as Paul knew him? Is it a lack of genuine prayer? Is it lack of repentance? Is it a fear of suffering? Is it attachment to material things? Is it sloth?

Perhaps it is a lack of self-knowledge! The woman caught in adultery had her sins exposed publically! She had to face what others knew, and so she accepted Christ's merciful forgiveness, which transformed her.

However, I like Paul's approach better. I would rather have Christ reveal my sins to me. Paul went from being a self-righteous and murderous Pharisee to a person whose sins were laid bare in the light of Christ's transforming experience. That light revealed the depths of Paul's sinfulness. The light was so bright that he was blind for several days.

However, the inner darkness left him. Inwardly, he saw Christ, whom he had crucified over and over again. He preferred the crucified and suffering Christ to the self-crucifixion that came from his sinfulness.

So suffering for Christ and with Christ is a good thing!

Now that you agree that suffering with Christ is a good thing, why not let Him show you your inner darkness, so that you can repent of it. Don't tear yourself apart. Rather, ask Him to show you areas of denial where mercy cannot go because it does not have your permission. Why not simply pray from the bottom of your heart, "Jesus, show me my inner darkness, and then give me the grace to give you permission to deliver me of that inner darkness through your mercy!"

 

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