5th Sunday of Lent Year C
March 17, 2013


All three readings today may be said to speak about newness. The first talks about new realities for the chosen people of God: a way in the desert and rivers in the wasteland, to name two. The second reading speaks about the need “to forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead.” The third refers to a new approach the Lord used to tame the old problem of people taking advantage of others to push their own agenda.

As a counselor, I am familiar with the tendency to wallow and dwell in the past. When one is hurting, one always remembers selectively, I must add, all the unfortunate and unhappy incidents in the past. One finds it hard to look ahead. One loses, not just serenity and peace, but also, and more importantly, the capacity to hope for better things in future. According to the research of Philip Zimbardo, there are people who are focused on the past: either the past positive or the past negative.

That focus spells all the difference between one who fossilized in the past and focused on what lies ahead, as Paul was.

I am sure we all had our own experiences with this tendency to pine for things past, and to long for things that will never come back anymore. Maybe it is a defense of some kind – that helps some of us to deal with the basically unacceptable present, or the uncertain future.

I know. I have “been there; done that.” Is it any surprise that my thirst for music is, as they call, retro? Should it surprise anyone that most people that we work with and for, often compare us with the so-called “good old days” during the time of so and so … and we are left with the bitter feeling that we are not as good, not as capable, and not as avant-garde as the former pastor or former principal?

Counselors are familiar with the defense strategy called “idealization,” and it always works when it comes to glorifying the past – or so people think.

The Lord was caught in a veritable trap. They dragged a specimen with them – a woman caught in adultery. That was a real trap if ever there was one, for the law was very clear on what to do with such women. But they were not so much interested in bringing the woman to justice, as catching the Lord in flagrante delictu, as it were – with his fingers in the cookie jar!

But salvation has to do with new and great things! Salvation is all about God doing great things for us. And the Lord, who knew and read their minds and hearts, saw through the ruse and answered them in a way that could not have been predicted by the people of the lie!

Great things and new things have been done by the Lord in our recent history. The Pope emeritus Benedict XVI surprised the world with something new, something novel and unexpected. He announced his renunciation of the Petrine office last February 11, 2013. The world, that is deeply steeped in the old ways of sin, selfishness, and power, position, privilege and wealth could not understand it. The world cannot understand humility, self-denial, and self-abnegation, especially in our context where politicians rule the roost for decades, forever, through their wives, sons, daughters and clan members!

We need to try new tacks. We need to open up to newness and new approaches. And the election of a new Pope that also surprised the world and the many pundits who thought they had all the goods on the new Holy Father, was a big case in point. Newness means being open to surprise, to serendipity, to hope, and the promise of change, but not the change expected by pundits and mainstream media, who always seem to know what the Church needs!

I don’t know what the Lord wrote down on the ground when he bent down.  It could be anything. It could be that he was biding time and reflecting on what to do. But what he said was the totally shocking new thing that made the accusers walk away one by one, tails between their legs.

It is an old reality, but something that we need to renew and reflect on with eternal newness and validity: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

An old condition? Yes, definitely. For we all fell short of God’s glory and were all born with original sin? New reality? Yes, for the Church is ever young and ever new when we walk away from the old in order to strain forward to what lies ahead.

And what is our prize? Let St. Paul speak for himself … “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”

This is the same prize that Augustine spoke of – the beauty ever ancient; ever new!
Lord, bless and guide the new Holy Father, Francis! May he lead us toward that great prize of newness and salvation!