Homily: Behold, I Am Doing Something New!

      “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?” (Is 43:18-19)

   Today we rejoice at the election of our new Pope, Pope Francis I of Brazil. He certainly seems to be a very holy man, a humble man, a man with great concern for the poor.Our prayers go with him as he begins his new ministry to a church very much in need of of reform, change and a new Spirit.

   The whole gospel is an example of what Isaiah describes “Lo I am doing something new.” And what is the something new that God is doing?

   Today’s Gospel story in a story of a woman about to be stoned. It is probably not by accident that the story is about a woman, and there is more here than gender bias.  That she alone stands before the crowd in judgment certainly shows a significant bias among Jesus’ adversaries. And the compassion Jesus shows toward this endangered woman is an example of his disregard for such biases. All the Gospels indicate that Jesus was especially sensitive to the needs of poor and disadvantaged people, those who have been pushed to the margins of the community.

    We are granted a way out of the deserts of our lives; we are sustained by living waters; we are rescued from the jaws of ravenous beasts. We are forgiven, and we are saved from our own sinfulness. This is what the first reading promises; this is what the Gospel reading reports.

   All through Lent we have been reflecting on the marvelous goodness of God in our lives. This idea of God’s steadfast love comes to a climax on this Sunday just seven days before Holy Week. The second reading, from Paul, tells us to respond to such divine graciousness with joy and gratitude. We have been brought back from captivity, and we are filled with joy; God has done great things for us, and we are grateful.

    Paul himself was a forgiven sinner. He was completely transformed by his faith in Christ Jesus. His life is an example of the Gospel cry, “Sin no more.” He left his former life behind as he launched out into the ‘something new’ that God had in store for him, and he did it with no regret.

    On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we stand on the brink of Holy Week, the time set apart for us to reflect seriously on the true sign of God’s compassionate love for us. The Gospel story reminds us that we cannot stand self-righteously and condemn the lives of others, when God is calling us all tenderly to conversion. We cannot cling to the past, which may be so comfortable and even socially acceptable, when God is doing something new.

    We live in a world that desperately needs something new. This wonderful newness of God is like the newness of this Springtime, which formally begins today. For us, it will be born out of conversion, not coercion; it will spring from repentance, not reprisal. It will take shape in the governmental councils of the world, in the boardrooms of corporations and on the shop floors of the workplace, and at the tables of families. We are all called to “repent, and sin no more.”

            © America Mag & Dianne Bergant, professor of biblical studies at Catholic Theology Union, Chicago.

 

 

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