Next Sunday’s Readings – March 13, 2016
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 43:16-21 Philippians 3:8-14 John 8:1-11
As we approach Easter each year, the grocery stores and shopping malls fill with candy eggs chicks, bunnies, and butterflies. While some people think these images distort the real reason for the season, others recognize in them signs of the abundant and transformed new life that awaits those who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism invites each of us into a new beginning. The images of water in the reading from Isaiah can help us reflect on this reality. Through the waters of Baptism the Lord “opens a way . . . and a path” for us. The powers of evil in our lives are “quenched like a wick.” Then the Lord does “something new” in us. The water “springs forth” from within the wasteland of our hearts to create a river of new life (Isaiah 43:16, 17, 19). Little by little our dry deserts are transformed into lush gardens for the praise and honor of God.
This is the scenario that St. Paul describes in the selection from Philippians. Reading his words, we can almost envision a baby chick discarding its cracked shell and a new butterfly forfeiting its empty cocoon as “so much rubbish” compared to the “supreme good” of the new lives they have begun (Philippians 3:8). But Paul is quick to point out that Baptism is just a beginning. There is a lifetime to be lived in pursuit of “perfect maturity,” our “upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12, 14). In the Gospel, Jesus echoes this lesson. He rescues the woman from her oppressors, offering her a new life with the words “Neither do I condemn you.” Then he invites her to begin anew: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11). As we approach Easter, Jesus is inviting each of us to be fully transformed by the new life that was begun in us in the waters of Baptism.