First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21

 

Commentary:

In today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord recounts to the people of Israel the events of the Exodus in order to remind them of His faithfulness and saving work. At the time of the Exodus, God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt, opening a way to salvation through the parting of the Red Sea. The Lord then promised to do “something new.” He would continue to offer salvation to His people. He would wipe away their past and bring them to new life. The imagery of water in the desert indicates new life in the midst of desolation. God is still in the business of bringing dead things to life. He wipes away our past sins and gives a bright future.

 

Second Reading: Philippians 3:8-14

 

Commentary:

The Apostle Paul had been a wealthy, well-educated, successful Jewish leader. But he gave all that status up when he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and became a Christian. Why? Because he discovered that nothing compares to “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus.” Everything else appears as “rubbish” compared to knowing Jesus. This probably sounds radical to you. But think about it. Is there anything in this world that could be better than having a relationship with the God who created all things and holds all things together? Could anything on this earth compared to an eternity with God in Heaven? Still, we can easily get so caught up in the things of this world.

Do your priorities reflect those of the Apostle Paul’s? Or do many things take precedence over God in your life? It’s easy to get distracted, but now is the perfect time to refocus. Take time to reflect on your priorities and ask, does everything else (whether it’s your job, your money, your recreational life, your family) pale in comparison to the importance of God in your life? All those things may be good, but they are not “the supreme good,” which is God. Putting God first doesn’t mean those other things aren’t important. It just means that God is at the centre of your life. And when God is at the centre, everything else falls into place. Maybe God has not been your top priority in the past. That’s okay. Even the Apostle Paul readily admitted he was far from perfect. Just heed the words of Paul: “forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead.” And remember that our God is the God of new beginnings.

 

Gospel Reading: John 8:1-11

 

Commentary:

This famous account of the Woman Caught in Adultery evidences the mercy of God. The scribes and Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus in order to trap him. If Jesus agreed to have her stoned, he would have been in trouble with the Roman authorities who forbid the Jews from administering the death penalty (thus, why the Jews later had to bring Jesus to the Romans for trial in order to get the death penalty for him). But if Jesus opposed the stoning of the woman, he would have been going against the teachings of Moses and, therefore, the scribes and Pharisees could have discredited his teachings. Jesus, as he did elsewhere, prudently avoided the trap. Jesus invited whoever was sinless in the group to cast the first stone.

Thus, he upheld the law of Moses and, yet, pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. They were quick to condemn someone else, but slow to recognize their own faults. By putting it back on them, Jesus was teaching them and us about mercy, which is God’s love expressed towards sinners. The eldest and wisest in the group were the first to lay aside their stones and walk away. Ultimately, no one was willing to claim sinlessness, even though many of them were self-righteous. It is unknown what Jesus was writing in the sand, but one understanding is that this gesture symbolically fulfilled Jeremiah 17:13 which warned that anyone who forsakes God “shall be written in the earth.”

Therefore, Jesus could have been sending a very clear message to the Jewish leaders that they had forsaken the Lord. Regardless of what he wrote, the Jewish leaders got the message and departed humiliated. The brief dialogue between Jesus and the woman after everyone else left is profound and revealing. According to Jesus’ own directive “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”, he had the right to throw the stone, since Jesus was sinless. If anyone could have justly condemned her, it would have been him. But he showed her mercy by not condemning her and, rather, offering her forgiveness for her sins. Still, he didn’t stop there. Jesus then commanded the woman to “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” Jesus, therefore, invited the woman to conversion. He forgave her past but then invited her to a new future of faithfulness to God.

 

Taking it Home:

Have you ever been caught red-handed? When caught doing something sinful, have you experienced mercy or condemnation from others? Regardless of how others have treated you, God offers you forgiveness. He can wipe away the sins of your past and help you to start a new future. Will you repent and receive God’s forgiveness? Will you then strive to live differently?