Fifth Sunday of Lent • Year C

Aldo R. Potencio, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Is 43:16-21
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Phil 3:8-14
Jn 8:1-11

“Do you not perceive it? The Lord is doing something new.”

Even as the prophet Isaiah is reminding us how God is doing something new in our life now, it is not so easy to believe these words when our present human experience obscures the reality and presence of something that is good.

It seems like we are only beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID, and now we are again facing another crisis with the war in Ukraine and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.

Nowadays, it is not so easy to listen with an open heart to the words of Isaiah to stop looking back at the past and start recognizing what is happening in the present. It is easier to find hope in the good things that happened in the past, when the present seems dark and grim.

But then again, if we continue to live in the past, we will miss the miracles that are unfolding in the present, even in these difficult moments. Being stuck in the memories of the past can hinder us from building new memories in the present.

“Do you not perceive it? The Lord is doing something new.”

The Pharisees and scribes, wanting to find something to accuse Jesus with, lost sight of the marvelous things he was doing for them and for the world. They were so focused on the nuances of the law that they were not able to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the law.

They saw the law only as a means of judgment and condemnation, and to serve their own personal interests. In their misuse of the law, Jesus chose not to engage them; rather, he turned to silence. But when he was pressed to speak up, Jesus only responded that the one who is without sin be the first to throw the stone.

Jesus made them see their own hypocrisy and self-righteousness. And he reminded them about who is the true judge, who is God himself – the one who is without sin.

Confronted by their own sinfulness and shame, they walked away. And so again, they missed the opportunity to experience the message of Jesus, which is mercy and compassion.

This was in contrast to the woman who stayed behind. Jesus did not excuse the reality of her sinfulness, but neither did he condemn her. Rather, he gave her a chance for a new beginning. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

By walking away from Jesus, by ignoring the call to repentance and by being stuck in our own way of thinking and judgment, we can miss the new beginning that Christ is giving us. Stay and be one with Jesus, and so we receive the new beginning he is offering us.

“Do you not perceive it? The Lord is doing something new.”

Paul called everything else rubbish as compared to being one with Christ. The fear of losing everything we have and the fear of the way of the cross and of suffering will hold us back from oneness with Christ and the work he is laboring in us – making us a new creation.

Paul reminded us that we are claimed as possessions by Christ, and yet we struggle to possess him as the only possession worth having. But of course, Paul encourages us to continue with hope, and through God’s grace, that we may be able to possess what we truly desire.

Paul was made new from sinner to disciple through his encounter with Christ. And so, he enjoins us to also encounter Christ who is present in our life by letting go of those things that hinder us from this encounter. For through Christ, we are being made into a new creation.

“Do you not perceive it? The Lord is doing something new.”

This journey of Lent is really an invitation to encounter Christ, not in the past and not in the future, but in this present time because the Lord is doing something new right at this very moment.