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Lenten Reflection for the fifth week of Lent

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

These words of encouragement will be heard by many people attending church this past Sunday, the beginning of the fifth week of Lent. No doubt the people of Israel, so many years ago, beleaguered with persecution and problems brought on in part by their own sins and mistakes, welcomed this news of God’s compassion and help.

Today’s Gospel lesson in John 8:1-11 is the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery being brought by religious leaders to Jesus. They were using her as a pawn, attempting to trap Jesus into doing or saying something they could use against him.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

After bending down and writing in the sand, Jesus stood and famously replied, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, everyone left, until only Jesus and the woman remained. He said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

What welcome news for the woman! Instead of condemnation and death, she received affirmation of her dignity and worth, forgiveness and the gift of a fresh beginning! And what about the people in the crowd – some may also have begun a new path, faced with their own sins and mistakes while witnessing Jesus’ surprising gift of new life.

As in last week’s Gospel lesson of The Prodigal Son, who was welcomed home by his father, we see God’s love breaking the power of a person’s past and giving them a hope-filled future.

This fifth week of Lent we are offered the same gift. God doesn’t want us dwelling in a troubled past, or judging and condemning others to that fate. God promises forgiveness and a new start.

Will we be open and receive God’s gift? And how will we treat others who need the same thing?

May God bless each of us, and others through us, all with a new beginning. And may God bless this whole world of people, God-created and God-dearly loved, with the same “new thing.” Amen.


Scott Cartwright, Benedictine senior consultant, Spiritual Care