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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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Elizabeth of Portugal: Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch. At her birth in 1271, her father, Pedro III, future king of Aragon, was reconciled with his father, James, the reigning monarch. This proved to be a portent of things to come. Under the healthful influences surrounding her early years, she quickly learned self-discipline and acquired a taste for spirituality. Thus fortunately prepared, she was able to meet the challenge when, at the age of 12, she was given in marriage to Denis, king of Portugal. She was able to establish for herself a pattern of life conducive to growth in God’s love, not merely through her exercises of piety, including daily Mass, but also through her exercise of charity, by which she was able to befriend and help pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor—in a word, all those whose need came to her notice. At the same time she remained devoted to her husband, whose infidelity to her was a scandal to the kingdom. 
<p>He, too, was the object of many of her peace endeavors. She long sought peace for him with God, and was finally rewarded when he gave up his life of sin. She repeatedly sought and effected peace between the king and their rebellious son, Alfonso, who thought that he was passed over to favor the king’s illegitimate children. She acted as peacemaker in the struggle between Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and his cousin James, who claimed the crown. And finally from Coimbra, where she had retired as a Franciscan tertiary to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband, she set out and was able to bring about a lasting peace between her son Alfonso, now king of Portugal, and his son-in-law, the king of Castile.</p> American Catholic Blog In the name of the Father, use my mind to bring you honor, and of the Son, fill my heart to spread your word, and of the Holy Spirit, strengthen me to carry you out to all the world. Amen.

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