Mercy Opens A Way.  Condemnation Is A Dead-End | Word from the Shepherd No. 172

5th Sunday of Lent | Year C
Isa 43:16-21; Ph 3:8-14; John 8:1-11

“Zusia was dying. He was praying, his eyes were full of tears and he was trembling. “Why are you trembling?” asked a visitor. Zusia said, “Soon I am going to face my God. I am sure that He is not going to ask me ’Zee, why were you not Moses? And if He did, I will say ‘You did not give the qualities of Moses’. And if He asked ‘why you are not Rabbi Akiba?’ I will say ’You did not give me the qualities of Rabbi Akiba. But I am trembling and in tears for He may ask me, “Zee, why were you not Zee?” I have no answer. Too ashamed, I may look down. My whole life was an effort at trying to be someone else; I forgot that He wanted me to be Zusia or Zee to Him. I was imitating others, was not myself.”

Most of us are too consumed with imitating others; too busy being crowd-pleasers. Only a few step out or shift directions to embrace the “new thing God is doing for me right now”. Isaiah saw it as the way in the sea, the path in the mighty waters, rivers in the desert; water in the wilderness; and a drink to my people. Paul was consumed by this new life, new experience of knowing the Resurrected Jesus and the power, being in Him and becoming like Him in death. The woman caught in adultery, encountered MERCY, saw a new LAW; a law beyond the Law of Moses (non-condemning; not death-dealing). She met the merciful and compassionate God of the Law, not the Law of God.

We have a choice to inhibit, remain deformed, maintain a manageable form or make a radical change. To take that radical step to transformation, we have to grasp the following facts:  

  • That we are not condemned, nor rejected.
  • That we are loved and loveable to the Lord and God,
  • That ‘a new thing God is doing right now’.
  • That there must be a deep desire to improve. (Isaiah, Paul and the adulterous woman had it felt it). They perceived a pattern – the ways of God.

The Patterns They Perceived:

  1. They saw their real condition that they had a past, a personal story and history.
    It was not edifying, they would have preferred to forget them.  Theirs were stories of infidelities, forgetfulness and thanklessness. They saw the graces wasted and the chances they had missed.
    The lesson they learnt was “own the past but do not be owned by it”.
  2. They saw that God makes a way – a new exodus, a new way, an opening for a fresh start.
    For the Israelites, it was a way to return to their land and worship. 
    Paul perceived a new relationship, and everything else that he had seen, heard or experienced was nothing to what he had received in Christ Jesus.
    The woman saw a new beginning in Jesus, freeing her from the accusers, to go forth in truth, justice and compassion.
    The lesson they learnt was to ‘press on towards the goal, not pressed down by condemnation, guilt or fatalism‘.
  3. They saw an opening to new life. The exile was over for the Israelites in captivity. They were ‘returning home’. The time of celebration and jubilation was near. 
    Paul saw gain in knowing, being in and becoming like Christ.
    For the woman, there were no accusers, no stoning, no death, no condemnation. She was freed to ‘go and sin no more.
    The lesson they learnt was that ‘mercy opens a new way but condemnation is a dead-end.’

The 5th Sunday of Lent reminds that we are not what we do or have done. There is no reason for us to bury ourselves in regret and guilt. The deed is done. The doer can right it and improve on it. The doer can make something new with the Lord who said: “behold, a new thing I am doing for you right now”. God has a special love for those who try.