Life and Soul

Christ Himself becomes our way through sin’s wilderness

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1565), by Pieter Bruegel

The Fifth Sunday of Lent
Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-4; Jn 8:1-11 (Year C)

 ‘Thus says the Lord. No need to recall the past, no need to think of what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you not see it?” As we draw ever closer to Lent’s triumphant conclusion in the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, the words of the Prophet Isaiah move our attention to what the Father is bringing about in our midst.

If, at the beginning of Lent, we were confronted with our own sinfulness and missed opportunities, we are now invited to forget the past, to believe that our own salvation is this new deed that God creates, which he brings to light in our inmost being. Christ himself becomes our way through sin’s wilderness. He alone becomes the water that revives and gives life to drooping spirits. Where once we could find no words, we become the people he has formed for himself, singing his praises.

The wonder of this salvation underpinned St Paul’s irrepressible confidence: “I believe that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts. All I want to know is Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead.”

We are called to the same confidence. Faith’s final surrender is to entrust itself to Christ and the power of his resurrection,
to allow Christ’s presence to become this “new thing” that the Father brings to light within us.

The Gospel narrative of the woman taken in adultery is a deeply personal depiction of this new creation. As sinners, we belong to a world of transgression and shame, an unforgiving world whose self-righteousness seeks only to destroy and condemn.

“Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses ordered us in the law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?” Jesus said nothing in response to the crowd. His answer, again without words, would come in the days ahead as he took to himself the sins of the world and died on the Cross. We, like the woman’s accusers, can only retreat in humble silence before such an answer.

With the woman, we become a new creation in the Lord’s words of absolution. “Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go away and sin no more.”