“…See, I am doing something new!” (Isaiah)
“Something new”; a wonderful message filled with hope. In today’s readings, Isaiah and Paul encourage us to be forward looking people; to keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak. It is not that we should (or could) entirely forget our past but that we not allow it to imprison us or keep us subjected to spiritually unhealthy behaviors. In the first reading, Isaiah tells the people to forget even their miraculous rescue from the Egyptians as they traversed the Red Sea. He says, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Can you imagine the surprise of the people upon hearing that message? Forget that astonishing event? Is he kidding? What could top that?” Yet, elsewhere in scripture we are told, “…eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him….” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) Jesus spent His ministry trying to convince people of that. In other words, better things are coming. Just believe.
In John’s gospel, the scribes and Pharisees, were feeling pretty righteous based on the law. They bring an adulterous woman before Jesus. They were not in Jesus through faith. In fact, they were sure they were going to get Him with a “gotcha” question. He would be forced to, either, disrespect the Law of Moses by not condemning the woman or in condemning her, invite the judgment of Rome which forbade the Jews from executing anyone. Jesus remains silent, writing on the ground. It is thought by some scripture scholars that He was writing the sins of those ready to persecute the woman. We’ll never know. However, His unexpected response, “Let the one among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her” completely disarmed these hypocrites. They had to drop their stones and flee. Gotcha!!
And, now, the focus is on the woman. We don’t know anything about her. They had named her…”sinner!” She must have been terrified, humiliated, “caught in the act.” Perhaps she had a reputation. Perhaps she had a temporary lapse in judgment. Did she know Jesus in faith? Probably not. But here she was subject to His judgment. Her life was in His hands. He astonishingly tells her that He will not condemn her. Unlike the Woman at the Well, he does not recount all her past sins. He doesn’t call the woman a sinner as the hypocrites had done. He doesn’t even say the words of forgiveness. He simply tells her to …”go and from now on do not sin anymore…” It’s as if He is saying, If you didn’t know me before, you know me now. My love and mercy is more than you can imagine. I’m telling you to forget your past. I am doing something new for you. This God-man who could easily have sentenced her to death instead redeems her. What happened after that experience, we do not know. We can only hope that the woman was now possessed of Christ, She had been touched by grace. We hope that grace transformed her life. We hope she became a true believer. We hope that she spread the word…the good news.
Consider the simplicity of the interaction between Jesus and the woman. It’s really awesome to think that it can be just as simple for us, today. Jesus has told us who He is. We are all sinners. We all have a past. Yet, Jesus has done something new. He has redeemed us. We are destined for better things. We know it is God’s grace that empowers us to forget our past, walk in a new light, and, like the woman, “go and sin no more.”
Pat O’Malley, Associate