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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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