“See, I am doing something new.” These words were proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah many years ago. God declares that something new is happening. As we hear these words, we could focus our attention on signs and wonders, even though Jesus told us not to do that. We could try to figure out when the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus is to occur, but Jesus told us not to do that. So what is this “something new” that God is doing?
We see evidence of it throughout the history of God’s people, especially in the person of Jesus. In the reading from the Gospel of Luke for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we see Jesus treat another sinner in an unexpected way. He doesn’t condemn her, but instead He uses the circumstance to bring to light the hypocrisy and the arrogance of her accusers. Jesus tries to teach us over and again that the kingdom of God is about mercy and love. That is the good news, especially when we are on the receiving end.
We all know what it feels like to be treated with mercy instead of only justice. We like it when we don’t get what we deserve, especially when we have wronged someone else or chosen some other act of evil. We appreciate the times that people can see beyond our sin and notice the godliness in us. We love to receive the dignity that we deserve even when we aren’t at our best. We all know what a gift that is. So why is it so difficult for us to treat others in the same way?
Notice that the first people to leave the circle of accusers is the elders. They are the ones to finally see the wisdom of mercy and the hypocrisy of their own actions. Hopefully we learn from the passage of years how essential the gift of mercy is in the human community. The elders, because of their age, have the most to be forgiven. They have enough history to see what happens to people when they are lifted up or when they are pushed down. Elders know how freeing it is to be treated with mercy and how belittling it is to be shown indignities.
During this fifth week of Lent, as we draw near to our celebration of holy week and Easter, let us bear down on the purification that still needs to happen within each of us and within our communities. Where do we still feel justified in treating other human beings with hatred, judgment and rejection? When do we still feel it is appropriate for us to drag other people’s dirty laundry out into public? When do we still feel the right to judge ourselves as better than someone else? When do we continue to see the splinter in another’s eyes while we still do not notice the beam in our own?
What a waste this Lenten season would be if we end up after Easter in the very same state we entered Lent. Not only would we have wasted this incredible opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, but we will leave with discouragement. Now is the time to make amends. Now is the time to share more generously. Now is the time to go to confession and find the absolute, unconditional love of Jesus through that sacrament. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of our salvation.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.