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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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Matthew: Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the "tax farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners" (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers. 
<p>Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important. </p><p>No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.</p> American Catholic Blog The most appealing invitation to embrace the religious life is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor.

 
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