Written on: April 2, 2019
Today’s reflection is from Sister Kathleen Woody. Sr. Kate taught at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, for many years. However, beyond her classroom teaching, her biggest impact may have been her facilitation of many of the retreats in which the young men participated.
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5. 6
Freedom. The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent are about freedom. Each passage from Scripture teaches us how our God, over and over, releases us from physical or legal or spiritual bondage so that we can be God’s greatly loved children.
In the first reading (Isaiah 43:16-21), the Lord recalls rescuing the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt by drowning all of Pharaoh’s mighty army in the waters of the sea, thus allowing the chosen people to escape into the desert. In the desert God continues to protect the Israelites as they wander for forty years and eventually enter the land promised to them. They have been freed from Egypt’s control in order to found a new nation whose task is to bring knowledge of “I Am” to the world. God explains what they are to do:
Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see,I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches,for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink,the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.
The chosen people did not always live up to their responsibility of revealing the one true God to other nations. Time after time they fell into idolatry. They broke their covenant with God and each time foreign nations conquered them. The Jews (as the Israelites eventually were called) were taken into captivity by the Babylonians and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. During their time in Babylon, the Jews once again renewed their covenant with God, and attributed their release to their divine protector (Psalm 126):
When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion,
We were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with rejoicing…
The Lord has done great things for us,
We are glad indeed.
St. Paul composed his letter to the Philippians while in prison. In that letter Paul argues that, although he was an educated Pharisee, any righteousness in him was not based on the Mosaic law but came through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God. The point of law that Paul was referring to in several previous verses was the need for gentiles to be circumcised. Paul argued that the old law would put an unnecessary burden on new converts, and should not be binding – and his own spiritual maturation was based on his relationship with Jesus, not the law:
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
In John’s story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus speaks only four sentences to the accused woman. Yet she is set free in two ways. She is physically saved from a painful execution and, since Jesus says he doesn’t condemn her, she is released from her guilt.
We are God’s chosen ones, made in God’s image. Down through the ages, God has freed us from slavery and other physical trials, from legalistic theologies, from infidelities, and from our various moral weaknesses and sin so that we could return God’s love. We cannot fathom the depths of God’s love for us. And yet, in two weeks’ time, we will celebrate that love made visible on a hill outside Jerusalem.
Photo credit: Ahna Ziegler/ Unsplash
Lenten Resource: LIVING A LAUDATO SI‘ LENT