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Bible Reflections View Comments

Let Go of the Past
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
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Something in our human nature finds it easy to judge others, to label people as good or bad, saints or sinners, based on the most superficial of observations. Watching Jesus interact with people in the Gospels shows us a way to see beneath the surface, to be willing to give people another chance. Think of a person or group of people that you tend to judge harshly and try to see things from their perspective. This exercise becomes easier if we are aware of the many ways in which we ourselves have failed to measure up to some impossibly perfect standard.Once we get done wallowing in how miserable we are and how many ways we have failed, we realize God is still there, quietly waiting for us to come to our senses.

No matter how bleak things may look, the Lord promises that a new beginning is possible. We must remember the covenant and all the things that the Lord has done for us in the past, but we must also remember that our relationship with God is dynamic. We must be open to the ever-changing paths of salvation the Lord may have planned for our future.

Isaiah tells the people of Israel: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new.” Newness is always both exciting and a bit frightening. Much depends on how invested we are in the status quo. In the Gospel, the Pharisees base their accusation on the Law of Moses. They have codified the way people relate to each other and the way they relate to God. This has become a limited and limiting desert of impersonal laws and regulations. They don’t see a woman before them, only a broken law. We are told that Jesus comes to this confrontation after spending the night at the Mount of Olives, perhaps grappling with his own human weakness in the face of his inevitable suffering and death. Out of the most basic core of his humanity, coupled with his identity as God’s Son, he suggests a radical new law of compassion.

Jesus’s tracing in the sand perhaps reminds the people of the deserts where they themselves have wandered and strayed from the Lord. The crowd has gathered as a solid group, secure in the rigid institutionalism of the Law. But they drift away one by one as they confront the weaknesses in their own lives from which no institution can protect them. What they miss by leaving Jesus, however, is the forgiveness and compassion he offers to the woman.

The woman stays because she knows that Jesus and the refreshing changes he brings are her only hope for something better. She has nothing to lose. Those who left in their guilt, those who believed they had everything to lose, ultimately killed Jesus and rejected his law of compassion. But death could not confine the life force that would make everything new.

Today’s Gospel asks us to choose where we will stand: with the woman, open to the new life Jesus has to offer; or with her accusers, confused and frustrated by Jesus’s openness. The challenge of the Gospel is to be willing to be open to Jesus as God’s Word.

As we approach the final week of Lent, we each are called to spend time alone with Jesus, hearing him speak to us the words he spoke to the woman in today’s Gospel: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.”


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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