The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah and this section begins with a brief recollection of all the great things the Lord had done for the Israelites, but it quickly moves to the present and we are told; “See, I am doing something new!” The reading goes on to describe how the beautiful and miraculous ways God will care for his people. A message like this could only fill the people with hope as they looked to the future. This prophecy did not come while the Israelites where in Israel, it comes from near the end of their time as exiles in Babylon. It was a time in which their ancestors had been defeated and ripped from their land, so as to live in exile in a foreign land. Isaiah’s message was that no matter how bad things were, with God’s leadership they would get unimaginably better and that God is going to see that they are saved and get back what they had lost.
Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and Paul writes to them the importance of being willing to sacrifice all for Christ. He deals with the struggle that is so much part of our culture today; materialism. Paul’s message can be summed up as, “don’t be slaves to your possessions, instead let go of them, and allow yourself to be possessed by Christ.” This was not doubt a difficult challenge for the people of Philippi, and it is no less a challenge for us. We have so much, and often identify ourselves by what we possess rather than who we are. When someone asks us to describe ourselves we tend to tell them about the work we do, the car, or cars, we own, the trips we make. We might then move into talking about family, but rarely do we tell others, “I am a Christian!,” or “I am a beloved son/daughter of my loving Father.”
The Gospel brings this all together. The woman is caught in adultery and so there appears to be no doubt that she is guilty. She is about to lose everything by being stoned to death. When Jesus is asked to intervene and confirm the judgment of death he turns the situation upside down. She is pushed to the middle of the crowd that had gathered, standing there as someone caught in the act, shamed, guilty and with no defense. Jesus does not condone what she did, in fact he never mentions it, and instead he turns to the crowd giving permission to those without sin to cast the first stone. No one was qualified to do this, no one (other than the Blessed Mother) ever was or is, and they slowly depart. His final words to her were; “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” Jesus showed mercy to the sinner, and patience with her as she began a new life.
These readings remind us that God has big plans for us and wants to care for us in beautiful and miraculous ways. No matter how bad things might seem in our lives they will become better if we follow the Lord. We can only appreciate what God has for us if we stop identifying ourselves by what we possess, but instead allow ourselves to be possessed by Christ. Letting go can be difficult, but when one does they experience a freedom that comes from God. When Christ possesses us we realize that we are all sinners, and that what saves us is the mercy of Jesus.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.