5th Sunday of Lent

Apr 8, 2019

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT - Rev. Randall P. Patterson

It’s easy to relate to the readings today - we all have a past & a future. The message: let the past be the past – let the future be the future.

In the first reading – the Jewish people have been in exile for years. They’re filled with nostalgia – as they look back and remember the good old days – the liberation from Egypt - the grand exodus – manna from heaven.

But the Lord says through Isaiah,

Remember not the former things…

            Look, behold, I’m doing a new thing…a new way in the desert – new springs of water for the thirsty.

God was not only in their past – God was in their future – giving them a new start. Let the past be the past and the future be the future.

In the second reading – St. Paul knows his past as a persecutor of the Gospel – but now he has been touched by grace and given a new mission as an apostle of that Gospel. He writes,

I give no thought to what lies behind but push on to what is ahead – life on high with Jesus Christ.

We hear again - let the past be the past and the future be the future.

And Jesus tells the leaders of his day – who were trying to trap him – Let the man among you who has no sin

be the first to throw a stone.

One by one - they all leave. Then Jesus looks at this trembling woman – abandoned even by her lover and asks – “Where did they all go?  Isn’t anybody left?” No one,” she says. Then Jesus says, “Then I won’t condemn you either - you’re free to go - but from now on avoid this sin.” In other words - let the past be the past - and the future be the future.

The woman was guilty – ashamed and repentant. She knew her past – the whole town knew her past.

But when Jesus brought her pardon – he gave her a future. 

Isn’t that what God’s forgiveness is all about – to be restored to dignity – to be healed and made whole again – to be given a new future?

The challenge of these readings and this Gospel to us is not to ignore sin and wrong around us. Our world - and all of us - need repentance. We should repent – of course – but then – not fix or eyes on yesterday’s sin - but on today’s forgiveness and tomorrow’s hope. The repentance that saves - is not constant self-scourging - but a new birth of faith - and of loyalty to Christ.

Regret - dwells in the past – we all have regrets. Repentance - looks to the future and asks: where do we go from here? We can be like that woman in the Gospel – we all know we have fallen – we’ve all made mistakes.

We all wish we could go back and make some decisions differently. But the past is the past. We should remember the past but not live there - because the future is ahead of us.  God’s grace is in the future.

God’s purpose for us – the new path – the fresh water – are in the future.

Today’s Gospel teaches us that there is Someone more interested in restoring our life than in taking it.

There is Someone more interested in healing us than in increasing our hurt. There is Someone more interested in our future than in our past. His name is Jesus.