All three readings today remind us that there is more to Lent than our spiritual exercises in and of themselves. And ultimately there is more to repentance and forgiveness than clearing our past sins. All of our endeavors as Christians, from quiet prayers of reconciliation to works of mercy toward others, should shape us for perfect union with God.
Each reading points to God “doing something new” after showing his strength and mercy. In Isaiah, the LORD uses water, the instrument of Pharaoh’s destruction, as something new: life-giving water in the deserts and wastelands as a sign of renewal for God’s people and sustenance for them. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” While it seems perfectly normal for Jesus to exhort someone to sin no more, that directive – GO – is important. The question is, “Where does Jesus expect her to go?” He wants her to go in a new direction. He calls her to go someplace new, a place of not only freedom from sin, but a place of holiness and true human flourishing.
St. Paul speaks of his “pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Throughout his ministry, Paul is always going somewhere, moving from one city to the next proclaiming the Gospel. And while it may seem physically that he is crisscrossing the Mediterranean landscape, never moving in a straight line, his life is taking him ever closer to God.
Like St. Paul and the woman caught in adultery, our repentance and rebirth in Christ bring about more than a mere restoration to our innocence. When we are born anew in Christ, we are elevated to the sacred status of God’s children. We are prepared to receive God into the very core of our being. This is the why Jesus tells the woman “from now on sin no more.” He is telling her – and US – safeguard the innocence he restores in us and to persevere in living holy lives.
Isaiah 43:16-21; Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11