For those of us who have been trying to find our way during this Lenten season,
looking for the right path to follow, we are in luck this weekend, because we are
being offered new directions from God, if we need them.
Most of us have tried pretty hard to keep our Lenten penances and promises. I
know I have sometimes forgotten which way I was headed and then given up.
Only to be reminded in that moment or later on why I started my Lenten journey
in the first place. I wanted to travel, not alone, but with you and our parish, our
school, my family, my brother priests, and our bishop and anyone else who
looked like they were trying to bring about good changes into their lives.
And today we find out from Isaiah that the Road is open to move forward. Isaiah
says there is nothing to stand in our way, nothing to hold us back. We can no
longer look to the past, live there, or stay there. God is the leader out front. He
leads us through the desert wasteland and also leads us in the fields and forest.
We simply have to leave the past and look forward to traveling on a new road
during Lent, especially if we have fallen off it.
St. Paul also addresses the issue of getting stuck in the past to the Philippians.
They have been stuck in their old ways. In the past there were definite ways
things were done. Ways people were treated. Wealth showed that God favored
you and poverty showed that you were less in the eyes of God. Paul says he is
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward toward the goal, which for him
is life in Christ; Life in the Kingdom. The prize he tells us is Jesus Christ. The prize
he tells us is the open road in front of us as proclaimed by Isaiah.
John indicates that the Pharisees could only look to the past and see what Jesus
had done against the laws of the time. They could not look ahead to the good
that he can and will do. They continue to look for ways to “trap him” by relying
on the old law.
The law says the woman caught in adultery should be stoned. Notice it is not
“We caught her” but that “this woman was caught” by someone else who turns
her over to the Pharisees. Everyone loves a scandal. And pointing out the sins of
others has been a favorite past time since before Jesus to this very day.
To me the scandal is that the man she was with is not brought forward, nor is he
So Jesus draws the proverbial line in the stand. If Jesus says to stone her, people
will no longer see him as a merciful messenger of the good things of the Kingdom.
If he says not to stone her, then he is a breaker of the law and he could be stoned
by these same Pharisees.
On which side of the line in the sand do we stand? Jesus traps the Pharisees with
their own words. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw
a stone at her.” He knows their past and is offering them a way forward out of
their sin. But one by one they walk away. Can they even imagine themselves
inside the circle of sin? Or is it too hard to cross over? For lots of us it is easier to
remain the same, stuck in the past by our own sins
And Jesus asks “Where are they, those who accuse you?”
Perhaps she is the only one willing to recognize her sin. He invites her to cross
the line, to move away from her past. And as she heads for the new and open
road, he says “Oh, by the way… Go forward, not back, and sin no more.”
And that is how it should be with us. Just like that, Lent opens a new road for us,
no longer stuck in our past, but called to be leaders looking ahead. Called by God
to help others cross the line that has been drawn in the sand. From sinner to
saint, on the road to the Kingdom of God.