by Jean Stokan and Scott Wright

Isaiah 43:16-21 | Philippians 3:8-14 | John 8:1-11

I am about to do a new thing. Do you not perceive it?

We begin our fifth week of Lent on a note of power and amazement: “Our God is an awesome God!” (Psalm 47:2). Our God is the God of history, and can “make a way in the sea” for the people of Israel to march to freedom, a “way in the wilderness” for the exiles to return (Isaiah 43:16, 19). Our God is also the Creator of heaven and earth who can “make rivers run in the desert” and gardens to spring up to nourish the people (Isaiah 43:19).

The apostle Paul captures this spirit when he says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Yet he knows, and we know, that such knowledge comes with “sharing in Christ’s sufferings by becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). We, too, are invited to take part in this “great adventure” and “press on towards the goal,” with the confidence that “Christ Jesus has made us his own” (Philippians 3:14, 12). We are invited to live as resurrected beings in the midst of the world’s crosses.

Yet we still cry out, “God, how long?” The journey of life is difficult and filled with crosses, as it is filled with blessings. But sometimes the crosses seem to overshadow the blessings; the darkness seems to overshadow the light; the suffering seems to overshadow the signs of resurrection; death seems to have dominion. At times, we find ourselves without hope.

In precisely these moments, God plants a seed of hope in our hearts and “makes a way in the wilderness” for us to continue the journey. Even in the midst of our suffering, God plants a garden of delight. Like Jesus, we are invited to live as resurrected beings, even as our hands reveal the wounds that remain.

Artwork by He Qi (http://www.heqigallery.com/about.html)
Artwork by He Qi (http://www.heqigallery.com/about.html)

That is the power of today’s gospel, of the woman taken in adultery. The law proscribed that she should be stoned to death. But Jesus unmasks the hypocrisy of a law whose only purpose was to protect the power and privileges of men. Jesus’ message was one of forgiveness: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). God is going to do something new in history: Life, not death, will have the last word.

“Easter is itself the cry of victory. No one can quench that life that Christ has resurrected. Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred raised against him and against his church can prevail. He is the victorious one! Just as he will thrive in an unending Easter, so we must accompany him in a Lent and a Holy Week of cross , sacrifice and martyrdom. Blessed are they who are not scandalized by his cross. Those who have Christian faith and hope know that behind this Calvary lies our Easter, our resurrection. That is our hope.” ~Archbishop Oscar Romero

This reflection was written by Jean Stokan and Scott Wright. Jean is the director of the Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute. Scott is the author of Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints.  The reflection is from Living as Resurrected Beings in the Midst of the World’s Crosses: Reflections for Lent 2010, published by Pax Christi USA.

6 thoughts on “LENT 2013: Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 17

  1. Inspiring. If I didnot have to be reminded by your banner that Pax Christi is a protest organization, where effective peace and justice initiatives start with education,like Christ did, I would take your messages more seriously.

    1. Thanks Mr. Bisesi. Like Jesus and the Hebrew prophets who preceded him, part of Pax Christi USA’s mission is to speak truth to power, sometimes through protest or civil disobedience. From Jesus through St. Francis to Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez, Catholics have sometimes found it necessary to undertake actions which unmask greed or violence present in our society. Our current banner (it changes) features people in both prayer and action (the two women on the left are both praying). I’m sorry you don’t like the banner but glad that you found the reflection inspiring.

      1. The woman with a SOA headband and a hand on the chain link fence looks like a protester. This is why many people cannot get past your banner and will not even attend an organizing meeting for Pax Christi. For myself, I ignore it, but it has had a chilling effect on my efforts to recruit people concerned with peace and justice through neighborhood community action to join Pax Christi.

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  2. Very well spoken: “Jesus unmasks the hypocrisy of a law whose only purpose was to protect the power and privileges of men.” Indeed, it was men who were quoting the Law out of context and manipulating it for the purpose of abusing not only this woman but “to catch” Jesus. For Leviticus required both the adulterous man and woman to be stoned. Jesus catches them all in the violent game of religious blaming and offers another way: just stop the blame game. Choose the way of forgiveness. Because he chose it for them, everyone goes home free.
    Bob Cushing

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