March 13, 2016 – 5th Sunday of Lent
Saint for the day: Leander of Seville (c. 550-600)
Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation)
It’s always important for us to remember how the Church chooses the scriptures readings for the Masses – especially in the Lenten Season. The first choice is for the Holy Gospel to fit in well to the particular church season. Then, the Church chooses an Old Testament reading that supports or relates to the Holy Gospel. The second scripture reading may or may not fit in so well. When it does, I always say, “see how the Holy Spirit wants to be sure we understand these scriptures!” But there is still one more variable: in parishes where the R.C.I.A program is followed the following special scripture readings may be used: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8:11 and John 11:1-43 – the raising of Lazarus.
So, anyway you cut it, there has to be something for you to reflect on as you make your way towards Holy Week and the Easter Vigil which is the goal of our entire Lenten experience. So, whether you hear the Gospel of the women caught in the very act of adultery or the Gospel of the raising of Lazarus there is a common thread to take to heart. All of us will one day come to that point when our life here on earth comes to an end. And I’m sure that all of us hope to be welcomed into Heaven where the scriptures tell us, “Life is changed, not ended.” (1 John 3:2) This verse can make sense regardless of which Holy Gospel we hear. In the story of the woman caught in adultery we have to understand that sin causes a kind of death of our spirit and needs the sacraments of the Church to restore us to a life of grace. Once we have allowed the grace of forgiveness to draw us back into that perfect love of Jesus we are just like Lazarus hearing Jesus say, “Come out of the darkness of that tomb.” In the story of the woman caught in adultery she is brought to Jesus by the church leaders who think she should be stoned to death. I’m sure it was a great surprise to the scribes and Pharisees when Jesus challenges them to be without sin before they cast a stone at her. Any way you hear these Gospels you have to see that we are called into the Light of Christ. All of us who will participate in the Easter Vigil will enter the church in darkness and then hear the story of salvation. We will be asked to repeat our profession of faith in the risen Lord – a renewal of our baptism while holding a lit candle, a symbol of the light of Christ that overcomes the darkness of our sinful nature. And then, after we have received Holy Communion we go out into the light of a new day. This is a beautiful gift that the Church gives us each year. Another chance to begin again. Another chance to come out of the darkness of whatever it is that keeps us from knowing the Light of Christ and with the same words of Jesus to Lazarus, “come out of the darkness and walk in my light and – to the women caught in adultery – avoid sin as best as you can.” (my own loose translation of John 11:43 and John 8:11)