First Reading: Isaiah 43: 16 – 21
Second Reading: Philippians 3: 8 – 14
Gospel: John 8: 1 -11
More than a month now, the world watched in disbelief and anger while the country and the
people of Ukraine were upturned by brutal forces invading their land. We heard stories then of the
heroic struggles of ordinary, patriotic citizens who left family and home to defend their country in
its hour of need.
One hero who stood out among the millions of Ukrainians who answered the call of history was
the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Elected to the highest office of his land three
years ago in April 2019, the heroic courage of the Ukrainian president shone as a beacon of hope
for his people and inspiration for the world.
During his inaugural address as president, Zelenskyy noted that his election victory belonged to
all Ukrainians, not only those who voted for him. “Each of us is president. The victory is not
mine; it is our common victory. Each of us has put our hand on the Constitution and each of us
has sworn allegiance to Ukraine.”
And then he urged Ukrainians not to display photos of him in their homes and offices. Instead, he
urged his citizens to display “your kids’ photos instead and look at them each time you are
making a decision.” In what is now a prophetic speech, the Ukrainian president sowed the seeds
of hope, strength and resilience under pressure to shape the destiny of future generations.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks a word of encouragement to a people beaten down
by oppression and war. He tells them not to be overwhelmed by the events of the past but to
recognize that God is doing something new in their midst. “Now it springs forth,” says Isaiah, “do
you not perceive it?”
Similarly, the psalmist expresses gratitude to God for having restored the land and people of Israel
after they endured many challenges as a nation. Only God can restore and heal what human beings
destroy and lay waste!
Likewise, St. Paul echoes hopefulness as he gives witness to the struggles of his own life and
mission as an apostle of Jesus Christ. For the sake of the Gospel, he experienced personal and
physical hardships, rejection and eventually martyrdom.
In all these difficulties, St. Paul persevered in faith as he continued to pursue his goal, “the prize
of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
In the Gospel, Jesus gives hope to a woman caught in adultery and condemned by the scribes and
the Pharisees to death by stoning.
These religious leaders were hoping to trap Jesus who turned the tables on them by challenging
their self-righteousness saying, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a
stone at her.”
When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, he could not agree with the Scribes
and the Pharisees around him. They had been doing the simplest thing in the world, something so
simple that we do it all the time. They had been drawing a line, a very sharp, divisive line,
between good ones and bad ones. They were very good and that woman caught in the act of
sinning was bad, very bad, no longer worthy of living. A simple story, but this story repeats itself
among us all the time. How often do we divide the people around us into good ones and bad
ones? Jesus said, “That line is a lie; no one is good. You are all sinners. You have to leave your
ways and sin no more.”
All Jesus wanted was to turn sinners around, whether it be an individual or a crow. His clever
admonition is, “Go, and sin no more.”
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old… spring forth into new things,”
says Isaiah (43:18). Thus Isaiah and Jesus are challenging us to use the power of forgiveness.
Why should we forgive? It is hard to get people to change. We try everything to make our kids,
our spouses, our friends and coworkers change their behaviours, their languages, their attitudes,
their choices, their habits their outlook, their style, and their practices, all because we care for
them and want what is best for them. But it never seems to work. Well, God knows exactly how
you feel. God tried it for thousands of years to no avail. Then God tried something that finally
worked. Rather than try to change everybody else, God changed himself. Rather than threaten
punishment, God offered forgiveness. And it changed everything! Now God shares the secret
with us: you want to change somebody? Change yourself and then watch what happens. You
will be amazed.
Mercy was Jesus’ name and forgiveness was his game, not revenge. For Jesus there is no need to
be enslaved by guilt. For Jesus there always is a second chance. You can get back on track
anytime. For the Lord is eternal. He shall never die. Besides, he is full of mercy. Mercy is His
name. Whoever returns to him with a repentant heart will receive mercy resulting into
redemption. God’s loving heart cannot and will not withhold mercy from the greatest of all
sinners. The cry for mercy has been implanted in us by God himself. It comes from the depths of
human soul which is meant to live for eternity. For with the Lord is found forgiveness and not
revenge or retaliation. Everything in Him is life-giving, life-propelling, life-fulfilling, life itself.
Jesus desired the woman’s repentance and conversion of life, not her condemnation.
As we continue our Lenten journey, the word of God invites us to examine our priorities. Do I put
God first in my life? What obstacles keep me from answering the call of Jesus to make God, not
the self, the center of my life?
As we unite ourselves in solidarity and prayer with all who struggle as innocent victims of war, let
us resolve to make the best of these remaining days of Lent as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to repentance this Lent?