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Saturday, 02 April 2022 16:48

Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year C - 2022

Fr Michael Hardie 150 hsWith the arrival of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, our Lenten journey is almost over. The concept of Lent as a journey, rather than a time of denial, has been frequently suggested and promoted by Pope Francis. Elements of that journey appearing in the Pope’s writing have included frequent prayer in accord with the season, as Jesus encouraged us to do in Luke’s gospel, “Pray always without becoming weary,” (Lk 18:1); being active in charity towards neighbours and the needy; striving to put evil out of our lives; adopting an attitude of proactively improving the situations of those marginalized in society due to mental health difficulties, family violence, incarceration and addiction, and so on. In short – not giving something up, but taking on something new, as the Prophet Isaiah exclaims, “See! I am doing a new thing!”

Stoning of the woman Twitter 1The First Reading for this Sunday (Isaiah 43:16-21) begins with a mini-summary of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt through the Red Sea – a time of wandering and suffering by the people, but a time of accompaniment by God and the covenantal hope of a ‘land flowing with milk and honey,’ where they would no longer be slaves as in Egypt, but a new people – Yehudiim, the Jews.

The reading is intended to encourage the reader – which it does with flair – not to gaze wistfully at past lives and historical deeds but rather to look forward in hope to a time of grace and plenty for all God’s people. Because of the hopeful tone of the writing, after reflection on the time of exile in Babylon, these chapters of Isaiah (40 through 55) are known as the Book of Consolation.

Although the positive concept of ‘remembering’ and its equivalent concept of ‘not forgetting’ are very important principles for the Jews, especially at the feast of Passover, Jesus in today’s Gospel (John 8: 1-11) does not hold to the traditional way of dealing with the matter of adultery. Instead, he adopts what we would call the ‘pastoral option’ in responding to the skewed accusations of the scribes and pharisees. Both Leviticus and Deuteronomy insist that adulterous partners are to be put to death; here, Jesus opts for a life-giving decision which does not judge but invites repentance when he says to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Has no-one condemned you?” Her realisation that she was to live and not be stoned would have been perhaps the most salutary moment of her life. Her journey through her own personal Lent of marginalisation, suffering and fear for her life was over, thanks to this Man of God who had set her free before her detractors. No longer bound by her past, she was free to embrace the ‘new thing’ of knowing Christ (as Paul also says in the second reading in his letter to the Philippians), and thus embrace a life of hope and positive possibilities.

Every personal and communal encounter with the Word of God has the saving effect of changing the people who hear it, especially when hearing becomes listening, and listening becomes action. As Lent comes to a close and we move into the preparation for Holy Week, is there something we can still do to help others as we spread God’s Word in our communities and allow it to transform our personal relationships?

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.