THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK.
Today is the 17th March and for anyone who is Irish or claims to have Irish ancestry we celebrate the feast of our National Saint. That said this year our readings are for the 5th Sunday of Lent and we reflect on them in a moment. It is good to have an opportunity to remember what today is really about – not parades, not entertainment, not drink, not sporting events, not all the other stuff that goes with St Patrick’s Day. This day is about remembering the arrival of the Christian faith upon the shores of Ireland. The vibrancy and the power of that faith come to us through in the writings of the time. Being a Christian wasn’t just about attending a church on a Sunday, it was about living every second and every minute and every hour under the protection of God. There was a belief inherited from the Celtic past that there was an energy, a force, a power, a strength behind all things, the God proclaimed by Patrick fulfilled this belief. Through all the experiences of life Patrick has a sense of Christ with him and within him. Patrick shows his familiarity with the writings of Saint Paul in the penultimate verse. Paul writes to the Galatians, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’.
At the end of St. Patrick’s Breastplate Patrick has come full circle – back to the Trinity, back to God and in the closing two lines he expresses the message of the Gospel, “Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord’. May we follow Patrick’s example: may we bind God to ourselves and may we, like Patrick, know Christ as our Lord.
Today is also the Fifth Sunday of Lent – the final Sunday prior to Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis that he will be accompanied by the prayers of the Church throughout the world as he begins his ministry as Pope. Lent is a time of endless opportunity for new growth, a time for insights into the meaning of God’s love for us. On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we need to perk up the ears of our hearts when God says to a despondent people in exile, to look forward not backward, as though this moment in which they hear Isaiah’s prophecy is really the first day of their lives. He tells them to forget the past, for He has decided to do something new! This prophecy is really a veiled reference to the Father’s decision to send His Son Jesus as Messiah. By His sacrifice, He will bring them out of their vicious cycle of sinning. How sad that hundreds of years later, when their descendants actually saw their Messiah in the flesh, they failed to remember Isaiah’s words that God was doing something new!
In today’s Gospel Jesus meets the woman who was caught in adultery. He frees her from captivity to the crowd, the Pharisees and the Law. The “courtroom” tension is resolved by Jesus’ inviting her fellow-sinners to keep the Law by stoning her, if they themselves are without sin. Nobody is left to throw stones as they were all sinners as we all are. We can understand why Israel had a “zero tolerance” policy against adultery. But Jesus is not about policies or procedures; he is about people and all the concerns and needs that they have. He knows that we all have in some way turned against God. And Jesus wants to free each one including us in our present time and place. He faces the woman’s accusers and his look causes each to examine his conscience. Then he speaks to the woman. Instead of condemnation, he offers a new beginning, “Go and from now on do not sin any more ” This is really what Lent is about, it is about all of us recognising that we are sinners, confessing our sins and then going out to try and sin no more.