LinK: Today’s Readings
There are two movements in the season of Lent. The first four week period is a mode of conversion and a time to look at ourselves and to examine whether we are taking serious the commitment we have made to the Lord Jesus in our Baptism. It is a period of renewal and reconversion. The last two weeks focus more on the Passion of Jesus and it shows us in a clear and graphic way how much God loves us. Today’s readings are in the middle in the themes of the scripture readings.
The first reading is from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and the reason it is presented in Lent is to remind us of the baptism that will be celebrated at the Easter vigil when people join the Church, so the theme is a baptism theme. For us to understanding this reading we have to understand its historical context, which is the Babylonian captivity. The Jews, because of their infidelity to God, had been led as captives into Babylonia. Isaiah refers here to a new Exodus. You remember the first Exodus was from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. This new Exodus that Isaiah speaks about in today’s reading is the movement from Babylon back to the Promised Land, back to Jerusalem. Let us look at it more closely. Thus, says the Lord, who opens the way and the sea, again he is referring to the Red Sea. You remember when the Jews were slaves in Egypt they escaped across the desert; then they came to the Red Sea and the power of God parted the Sea and they passed through it.
The Israelites were slaves for 400 years. All they knew was slavery and around are all those other gods: sun gods, river god of the Nile, a frog god, and here comes the Lord God saying, “I want to set you free.” He goes through the 10 plagues and we think it is God drilling them in a fight – He takes on the river god with blood and He takes on the frog god and there was a sheep god and finally the 10th plague comes and they are told to take a lamb and kill it and eat it and anoint your door post with blood. They believed this lamb was sacred and they had to mark their houses with this blood? Why? Because God knew something: He knew He could take them out of Egypt but He had to take Egypt of their hearts. And that is the point of Lent. Then to free them and lead them out of slavery He has them cross the Red Sea.
In the early church always saw this as a symbol of baptism. Through the waters of baptism, we pass out of slavery in Egypt to freedom from sin and so the passage in the Old Testament is seen as a passage from death to life that takes place at our Baptism. Thus, says the Lord who opens the way and the sea, and the path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horses and powerful armies, how they lie prostrate together never to rise, snuffed out and punched like a wick. Again it is a reference to the Egyptian army pursuing the Jews in the Red Sea; if you remember the story, once the pursuers were in the heart of the sea, the waters flowed back and they drowned. Again, they symbolize sin which pursues Christians and it is the waters of Baptism which destroy sin and brings us new life. The prophet Isaiah is reminding the Jews who lived at a later time of what God did for them in the past.
He goes on to say – and this is most significant part of the reading – after having reminded them of the past, he says, remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago; consider not, see I am doing something new. He is telling the Jews it is important to remember but let’s not be nostalgic about the past, because what is important now is God who did these things will do them again in your life and your time. He was promising them a New Exodus from slavery to freedom. The reason we have these readings is the Lord is promising you and me a new Exodus, from the life of sin to a fresh beginning, because God always desires to do something new. Our faith is not a faith of something of the past. Although we believe history is very important because it reveals God’s love for us, more importantly we believe that what God did, God does. Unless we move to experience that reality in this moment, we are missing a very big part of salvation.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy is a movement for each of us to experience what God did in the past and continues to do in the present: set people free from slavery to new life to restore, renew, and reinvigorate. The woman caught in adultery in the Gospel today is restored to new life by the mercy of God. Now Our Blessed Lord is left alone with the woman. The young woman shaking and scared heard Our Lord say, “Has anyone condemned you?” If no one cast a stone upon the woman neither would Jesus and with a shudder in her voice and tears running down her eyes, she says, “No, none, Lord.” Her faith in Our Lord was justified as He said in reply, “Neither do I condemn you. Go in peace and sin no more.” Our Lord is not favoring sin He is condemning the sin but not the sinner. He is bringing the sinner back to new life.
Brother and sisters, our Lord is calling us to greatness and that is only achieved by your contrition and choice to receive the fullness of His Divine Mercy and to live a life of union with Jesus Christ, free from all grave sin and a desire never to commit a venial sin out of your free will. It is Jesus Who provokes you with the choice for the fullness of life that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who reads in your hearts the most genuine choices, the choices the world rejects. It is Jesus Christ who stirs in you the desire to do something great for your lives, to follow an ideal that will not settle for mediocrity! It is making choices for Our Lord and living for Him that we truly become great through love.