Lời Nhập Thể

Fifth Sunday of LentC

Sunday of the 5 LentC

Readings: Isa 43:16-21; Phi 3:8-14; Jn 8:1-11.

 

1/ First Reading: NAB Isaiah 43:16 Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, 17 Who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, Till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. 18 Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. 19 See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. 20 Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, 21 The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

2/ Second Reading: NAB Philippians 3:8 More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith 10 to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). 13 Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

3/ Gospel: NAB John 8:1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. 4 They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" 6 They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. 7 But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. 10 Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P. 

I. THEME: God always invites people to look forward to their future.

            When we review the history of salvation, there always exists an opposition between God and human beings. While God wants people to keep His law to achieve a happy life, people disobeyed Him by sinning and must suffer and die. When God looks for all possible ways to bring people back, they found ways to close all ways so that their brothers and sisters were confined in sins. While God always repairs, heals and lights up the hope for people, people found ways to divide, to destroy and to sow painful death.

            Today readings want to highlight God’s immense love for human beings through His works. In the first reading, though the Israelites were deserved of all punishments in exile, God still invites them to look forward to their future. He shall give them the opportunity to come back to their country as He led their forefathers to cross the Red Sea to escape their slavery from Egypt. In the second reading, although people must die because they didn’t keep God’s law, He still gives them Christ, His beloved Son to incarnate and to redeem their sins. By his sacrifice, the faithful can become righteous and hope for a reward which is the eternal life. In the Gospel, some scribes and Pharisees brought with them a woman who had been caught in adultery to Jesus to be stoned to death. Their purpose is to see what Jesus shall act: either following Moses’ law to stone the woman or to protect his commandment of love to forgive her.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not.”

           

1.1/ The exodus from Egypt demonstrated God’s power: The Israelites always viewed this important historical event as the proof of God’s power and love for them. Each year when they celebrate the Passover, the father of the family must clearly explain for his children to understand the meaning of this feast so that they never forget God’s love for them and shouldn’t chase after foreign idols. The most memorable event is the Israelites’ crossing over the Red Sea and the Egyptian armies’ immerse in it, “Thus says the Lord, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, Who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick.”

1.2/ God is preparing for the Israelites a new exodus: Every time the Israelites was dominated by a foreign power or being slaves in exile, they always remember what God had done for their ancestors in the Exodus event and ask Him to liberate them from foreign powers. The background of chapter 43 of the Second Book of Isaiah is the Israelites’ two exiles to Assyria and Babylon. God sent the prophet Isaiah to the Israelites to increase hope for them, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches. For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink. The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.” There are two degrees of fulfilment of this oracle:

(1) God shall open a way in deserts to let the Israelites back to their country so they could re-establish their country and rebuild the temple. The prophet consoled people that they don’t need to dwell in the Exodus’ remembrance because God is going to do greater things. He shall liberate people from exiles through Cyrus and Darius’ decrees, two Gentiles’ kings; they shall even provide the financial means to help them to rebuild their country and temple.

(2) God’s plan of salvation through Christ: He shall send the Messiah to liberate them from slavery for sins. Not only the Israelites but also all the Gentiles shall recognize and worship God.

2/ Reading II: I forget what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead.

2.1/ Evaluating the past: The background of today passage is Paul’s confinement in a prison (probably Ephesus). Paul had time to review his past, his conversion on the way to Damascus and his journeys of preaching the gospel. He confirmed the two important things in his Letter to the Philippians:

(1) To possess Christ is to have every things: “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”

            (2) Law doesn’t make people to be righteous; but it is their faith in Christ, “Not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith.”

2.2/ Properly using the present to learn about Christ: He advised the Philippians two important lessons, “To know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

(1) The resurrection: God gives Christ the power to resurrect from death. Christ is the guarantee for the resurrection of the faithful.

(2) If we share in his suffering, we shall also share in his glory: Christ passed through his Passion and Death to redeem people’s sins. If the faithful share in his sufferings, they also share in his glorious resurrection.

2.3/ Looking forward to the future: People always act for a puspose; the glorious resurrection is the hope for people to advance. Paul firmly believe that if he continues to go forward, he shall receive the glorious crown, the resurrection, which Jesus is waiting to give it to him. The attitude to go forward helps him not to be distracted by earthly things, but to overcome all obstacles to reach the goal which God predestines for people through Christ. Though there are still sufferings along the way, but if the faithful let Christ be their Lord, he shall help them to overcome all.

 

3/ Gospel: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

3.1/ They set the trap for Jesus to fall in: The passage described all the details of the event, “Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?"”

            (1) Moses’ law: John clearly indicated this is the set up trap of the scribes and the Pharisees, “They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.” According to Moses’ law (Cf. Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24), those who committed adultery shall be stoned to death.

(2) Jesus’ commandment of love: They knew that Jesus teaches people about the law of love and of forgiveness; therefore, they wanted to demonstrate for people that Jesus’ teachings are wrong because they are against the Moses’ law.

One can recognize right away that they are putting Jesus in a difficult situation: If Jesus says “No,” they shall stone him to death because he teaches people to oppose Moses’ law; but if Jesus says “Yes,” his teachings about love and forgiveness are ineffective because he teaches one way and practices another way. They are firmly sure that Jesus shall have no way to escape. They underestimated Jesus’ wisdom!

3.2/ The law of love is triumphant.

(1) The examination of conscience is necessary: John described Jesus’ actions as follows, “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.” What Jesus wrote we don’t know. One certain thing is that Jesus wanted people to examine their conscience before they condemn other; he can see through all people’s mind so that they can’t carelessly examine their conscience.

When people examine their conscience, they recognize that they aren’t better than others; this helps them to understand and to forgive others. If they aren’t good, why they want others to be good; others are also human beings like them. Those who don’t frequently examine of their conscience, shall be easy to condemn others because they think they are good and perfect.

(2) The only One can condemn, refuses to condemn: Hearing Jesus’ challenge, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more."

The moment of encounter between Jesus and the woman shall certainly leave an indelible mark in the woman’s memory. He is the only one who can condemn, refuses to condemn her; but opens a door to future and invite her to enter. He seems to remind her that though her sin was against God and others, but the one who suffered the most is her. She should use the opportunity of forgiveness to change and to make her life better.

Jesus showed us that his law of love is victorious over Moses’ law, because his law brought back a lost child; while if he acts according to Moses’ law, it shall certainly leave behind a dead body. God isn’t happy to see His child in a painful death; but He jumps for joy to see His child to repent and to live.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - God must correct us by sufferings; but He has power over all worldly power to recover our dignity as God’s children if we sincerely repent and return to Him.

            - We must let Christ be the Lord of our life. He shall help us to overcome all obstacles of life and give us the glorious throne which is the everlasting life.

            - We should frequently examine of our conscience instead of waisting our time to judge and to condemn others. Those who do this shall have opportunities to advance, easily forgiving others and be judged with mercy in the Last Judgment Day.

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