Reflections for Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126:1-6; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

Receiving God’s Mercy and Forgiveness

Neither do I condemn you. (John 8:11)

Every day, we face condemnation, whether it be from an enemy, from a friend, from the devil, or from our own guilty consciences. But however many condemning voices rise up against us, one person never joins in: Jesus. However many memories of past sins or hurts come to mind, it’s never Jesus who brings them up. He doesn’t condemn us.

When the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus as a test, he ignored them. He simply said that the person with no sin could cast the first stone. Everyone left, and Jesus uttered words of great promise: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).

Jesus knows our sins far better than anyone else, even better than we know them. Still, he refuses to condemn us. It doesn’t move him one bit when others try to remind him (or us) of our failings. It’s not that he ignores our sins. It’s that he loves us so much that he decided to take our sins upon himself and put them to death once and for all. On the cross, the penalty for every sin ever committed was placed on Jesus. Imagine the suffering he endured. Yet through it all, he never lashed out at us. He embraced it all—all because of love.

This is the mercy God extends to you today and every day. Just as he said to the woman, he wants to tell you, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Hold fast to these words whenever condemning voices rise up. Hold fast to your confidence that whenever you turn to Jesus in repentance, he forgives you and strengthens you against further temptation.

Do you want to know increasing freedom from sin? Then hand all your sins over to Jesus. Let him release you from the burden of guilt, and he will make you into a new creation.

“Thank you, Jesus, for your unending mercy. While everyone else, including myself, condemns me, you forgive. Such love is too much for me to comprehend. Help me to receive it.”

(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the readings and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Questions for Reflection/Discussion

  1.  In the first reading, we hear the Lord speak these prophetic words: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19). What new thing do you want God to do in your life? What can you do to open yourself more to this “new” thing?
  2.  In the first reading, the Lord also tells us of all the wonderful things he has done for the people he has formed “that they might announce my praise.”  During the day are you more inclined to periodically turn to God and give him thanks and praise or ignore him?  What practical steps can you take to help you to turn to the Lord more often during the day?
  3.  In the Responsorial Psalm, we also hear similar words as we heard in the first reading: “The Lord has done great deeds for us, we are glad indeed” (Psalm 126:3).  What are some of the “great things” the Lord has done for you? What can you do during the day to fill it with more joy?
  4. In the Second Reading, St. Paul told the Philippians that he considered everything a loss compared to knowing – that is experiencing – the touch of Christ in his life.  He also said he considered everything as rubbish, so that he may “gain Christ and be found in him.” Why do you think Paul was able to say these things? Are you able to say the same thing based on your own experience of Jesus Christ? Why or why not?
  5. St. Paul goes on to say that while he may not have eternal life yet, nevertheless, he has been taken possession of by Christ. In addition, he tells us that he continues his “pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus.”  What can you do to allow Christ to take greater ownership of your life, so you can continue your “pursuit” toward your heavenly “goal”?
  6. In the familiar Gospel, Jesus offers love and forgiveness in contrast to those who seek only “justice” and the letter of the “law.”  In what ways is your attitude one of wanting mercy from God for yourself, but “justice” for others, especially those who may have hurt you in some way?  Are you the first to cast the stone?  How can you make love and mercy for others a hallmark of your life?
  7. The Gospel passage ends with these words to the woman caught in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” How do these words of Jesus apply to your life as well?
  8. The meditation concludes with these words: “Do you want to know increasing freedom from sin? Then hand all your sins over to Jesus. Let him release you from the burden of guilt, and he will make you into a new creation.” What do these words mean to you? What steps can you take, as we move toward the end of the Lenten season, to make these words a greater reality in your life?
  9. Take some time now to pray and ask Jesus for the grace to receive more deeply his mercy, forgiveness, and love. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as a starting point.

These reflection questions are provided courtesy of The Word Among Us.