Fifth Sunday of Lent

13th March 2016

The first reading from Isaiah chapter 43 speaks to a people being brought home by their powerful God; this despite their many faults and failings. Yahweh is the name He uses of himself, but also announces himself as their redeemer and saviour as well as their original creator who formed them into a people. No god could be imagined as great as Him, who can bring his own through all manner of difficulties. They need have no fear now but can sing His praises. The whole chapter is worth reading to get the full force of this message, and there we have the words of a well-known hymn “Do not be afraid” which expresses these sentiments for us today.

In the second reading, Paul reminds the Philippians that he himself was once a Jew who like the Pharisees and all devout Jews, aimed to win God’s favour by keeping all the precepts of the Law and, like them too, failing in the attempt.  But he adds that he has put that aside now, and lost this burden of trying to keep the rules, because he has found a new insight into God through his encounter with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  He knows that righteousness (being in a good relationship with God) must come from God not from the human recipients of His love.  But what he is trying to do, is to imitate the sort of life Christ lived; a life devoted to God to the very end; but this is an ongoing enterprise that he has to pursue through whatever difficulties of life – it’s all well worth it.  He is most likely saying all this because there are some in the church in Philippi who have a more pharisaic approach to their religion and perhaps want to impose it on others.

The Gospel is from John but is not unlike the sort of accounts that Luke writes. It is the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery. It develops the theme from the second reading, about the inadequacy of the Law to gain righteousness, and the priority of God’s love and forgiveness. In that place and time it is the woman that is to blame for the adultery – nothing is said about the man involved. Jesus, with the love of God for all, says that the one who has no sin can caste the first stone towards her execution by stoning; but notice that Jesus is the only one there who has no sin, yet it is he who shows forgiveness towards her – He is the one who shows us what God is like, as we try to see what He is like and what He wants of us.

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