Fifth Sunday of Lent
1) Is 43:16-21
2) Phil 3:8-14
Gospel: Jn 8:1-11
Only a month ago, the world watched in disbelief and anger while the country and the people of Ukraine were upturned by brutal forces invading their land. We heard stories then of the heroic struggles of ordinary, patriotic citizens who left family and home to defend their country in its hour of need.
One hero who stood out among the millions of Ukrainians who answered the call of history was the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Elected to the highest office of his land three years ago in April 2019, the heroic courage of the Ukrainian president shone as a beacon of hope for his people and inspiration for the world.
During his inaugural address as president, Zelenskyy noted that his election victory belonged to all Ukrainians, not only those who voted for him. “Each of us is president. … The victory is not mine; it is our common victory. … Each of us has put our hand on the Constitution and each of us has sworn allegiance to Ukraine.”
And then he urged Ukrainians not to display photos of him in their homes and offices. Instead, he urged his citizens to display “your kids’ photos instead and look at them each time you are making a decision.” In what is now a prophetic speech, the Ukrainian president sowed the seeds of hope, strength and resilience under pressure to shape the destiny of future generations.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks a word of encouragement to a people beaten down by oppression and war. He tells them not to be overwhelmed by the events of the past but to recognize that God is doing something new in their midst. “Now it springs forth,” says Isaiah, “do you not perceive it?”
Similarly, the psalmist expresses gratitude to God for having restored the land and people of Israel after they endured many challenges as a nation. Only God can restore and heal what human beings destroy and lay waste!
Likewise, St. Paul echoes hopefulness as he gives witness to the struggles of his own life and mission as an apostle of Jesus Christ. For the sake of the Gospel, he experienced personal and physical hardships, rejection and eventually martyrdom.
In all these difficulties, St. Paul persevered in faith as he continued to pursue his goal, “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
In the Gospel, Jesus gives hope to a woman caught in adultery and condemned by the scribes and the Pharisees to death by stoning.
These religious leaders were hoping to trap Jesus who turned the tables on them by challenging their self-righteousness saying, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Jesus desired the woman’s repentance and conversion of life, not her condemnation.
As we continue our Lenten journey, the word of God invites us to examine our priorities. Do I put God first in my life? What obstacles keep me from answering the call of Jesus to make God, not the self, the center of my life?
As we unite ourselves in solidarity and prayer with all who struggle as innocent victims of war, let us resolve to make the best of these remaining days of Lent as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to repentance this Lent?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.