Monday, March 18, 2013


Do you like change?  Not the coins you have in your pocket, I mean change in the sense of new and improved, of something you haven’t seen before, of something novel, like a new Pope.    Do you like that?    I hope so, because that is what our readings today promise us.
          In the first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord tells us, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”
OOOOOH, New and Improved!   Straight from God!   What is it? 
          We’ll come back to that in a minute.  But now let us look at today’s second reading, from St Paul to the Philippians.  Paul is in jail as he writes this.  And so he has time on his hands.  Does he use the time to reflect on his life, on all that God has accomplished through him, to write his memoirs, to recount all the wonderful adventures Paul has had preaching the Gospel, the fascinating people he has met, the exotic places he has been to, and so on????   NO!   Not at all.  Rather, Paul says:  “Just one thing:   forgetting what lies behind       but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,    the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
          Paul is looking for something NEW, something up ahead in the future: “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”    God’s upward calling.   A funny phrase.   A call “UP”, spiritually higher, above the low, the sordid, the failure and the sin of our current life.  “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”   This is the new reality that Isaiah is prophesying, that we heard about in our first reading!
          In the Gospel today we have an example of that new reality, that upward calling in action.  
          Scripture Scholars tell us this Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery is not in its original location.  Today it resides in the 8th Chapter of the Gospel of John, but it doesn’t fit there very well.  In fact, because of the language used most scholars think this was originally part of the Gospel of Luke.  And in some very early Bibles it appears in Luke’s Gospel. 
          Although this story of the woman taken in adultery, and Jesus’ confrontation with the accusing men and His forgiveness of the woman, even though it is very beautiful, it seems that this story had a hard time getting excepted into the Gospel.   
          Why?   Because it is too new.  As the great Catholic Biblical Scholar, Ray Brown states about this Gospel,  The ease with which Jesus forgave the adulteress was hard to reconcile with the stern penitential discipline in vogue in the early Church.”  
          It was too much.  What shocked the early Christians, is that Jesus DOESN’T condemn the woman, even though she is clearly guilty.  Unlike the Law, in Chapter 20 of Leviticus or Chapter 22 of Deuteronomy which set the death penalty for adultery, Jesus does something entirely NEW:  “Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.   Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
          Here we see the upward calling of God, in Christ Jesus, clearly and brilliantly displayed in action. 
          In Christ Jesus God sets you and me free, just like Jesus set that woman free.  Jesus set her free from a sentence of physical death, but He also set her free from shame, from guilt, from embarrassment, from bitter disappointment over how she had screwed up her life, from feelings of worthlessness, and most importantly from sin.  “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” 
            God, in Christ Jesus, is doing something NEW.   “Remember not the events of the past,  the things of long ago consider not;   see, (says the Lord) I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

          God, in Christ Jesus, is calling you and me UPWARD, out of the morass and swamp of self-pity, of indifference and laziness, out of lust and anger and revenge and greed and prejudice and fear, out of guilt and shame and feelings of worthlessness, out of pride and disobedience and sin, to live a new life as Children of God.  “the  prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus frees us to live a NEW kind of life.
            In the Sacrament of Baptism for those who will be Baptized on Holy Saturday night, and in the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation for all of us who are already Baptized, through the human words of the priest, Jesus says to each of us:  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
            Now that is a NEW thing worth celebrating!   God bless!

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