By Bishop David McGou,,rh
Fifth Sunday of Lent Isaiah 43: 16-21; Philippians 3: 8-14 ; John 8: 1-1
Conunon sense indicates that past performance is the surest indicator for the future. Such realism, on a personal level. can curtail our future hopes. The past has shown us what we are. The drearns that we once had have faded, diminished by the daily reality of our own sinfulness, our own frailty. Why should we expect anything of ourselves, of the Easter so soon to be celebrated?
Long ago the prophet Isaiah addressed our natural reluctance to believe that there can indeed be a new beginning. His words had been addressed to a people whose glorious past had been a catalogue of missed opportunities. The God of Israel had called this people to himself, had delivered them from slavery and established them in the land. Despite the grace of their calling, they had turned away. In like manner, the Lord has called us to himself in baptism, has established us as his children. Despite these many graces, we are strangely unmoved by the generosity of his love. Through the prophets God had continued to call his people back to himself. Finally, they had become the prisoners of their own indifference, unable to break free from the sinful past that had led to their downfall. In lesser ways we resist God's call, diminishing within ourselves the hope for lives truly lived in the pattern of his love.
Isaiah challenged the disillusionment of a broken people. His words go to the very heart of a Jethargy that can so easily undermine our longing for God.
God's salvation is not a damage-limitation exercise, an attempt to make the best of a sony past. It was for this reason that the prophet dismissed the triumphs and the failures of the past. This new deed that God would bring about was nothing less than a recreation, a new heart and a new spirit for a broken people. As we approach Easter the Lord calls us to the same promise. No need to recall the past, no need to live the disillusionment of dying hope. With Christ we become that new deed promised by the Father.
St Paul sets out the sure foundation for our future hope. "I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts... I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith."
Paul clearly understood the psychology of sin. Sinful humanity clings to the illusion that it can realise its own dreams, heal its own wounds. With the passage of time we begin to understand that sin will always undermine our achievements and that we cannot heal the past. At that point hope dies within us. For this reason, Paul entrusted himself to a perfection that would come not from himself, but from the Christ who creates us anew. Our repentance surrenders to Christ a past that has been rooted in ourselves and entrusts itself to the future perfection that Christ can achieve within us.
The narrative of the woman taken in adultery sets before us the wonder of our own salvation. A hostile crowd, bent on the destruction of Jesus. demanded that judgment for past sin must condemn this woman's future. The same crowd melted away with the realisation that they, no less than the woman, were the prisoners of their past. The Risen Lord sets us free from the past. With the woman he allows us to walk freely from the disappointment of the past and to embrace his future.