SR-2019-04-07

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
5th Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – April 7, 2019



5th Sunday of Lent Theme: Christ’s Display of Mercy Helps Us to Trust in Him.

Today’s readings remind us of God’s infinite mercy which annuls the problems from the past, rejuvenates the present, and gives us the strength and courage to confess “Jesus, I trust in You” for our future. All of us have sinned, as represented in today’s Gospel by the parable of the woman caught in adultery. All of us must turn to the Lord in grateful thanksgiving for His mercy. There are consequences from our sins because God condemns the sin but not the sinner.

“Storms come in our lives and we must be prepared for them when they come.  What these storms do to us depend a great deal on what kind of state they find us in at that time. Therefore, what we need to do is to always be living our life in a state of faith and trust.” (Faithlife.com)


Reading 1 – Isaiah 43:16-21     The Lord is doing something new for His people who are in exile.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 126:1-6     These verses reflect the exiles’ joy after their liberation from captivity.

Reading 2 – Philippians 3:8-14     Paul says that he counts all things as loss and focuses on one goal, Christ.

Gospel – John 8:1-11     Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document.

Reading 1     Isaiah 43:16-21                       (Hope for the Future)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – This passage is from what is called in Isaiah, the Book of Consolation (chs. 40-55). These chapters were written to encourage the Israelites while they were living in exile in Babylon and in danger of losing hope in God’s love for them. The author exhorts his fellow Jews to trust that God will have mercy on them and come to their aid. The prophet assures them that God is about to do a “new thing” for them. They will experience a new Exodus. The mighty God who created the world and freed their ancestors from Egypt is about to perform another mighty saving event on their behalf.


Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. [i] Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new [ii] ! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor Me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for My chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for Myself, that they might announce My praise.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 126:1-6                     (Joy of the Redeemed)

These verses reflect the exiles’ joy after their liberation from captivity. This follows from Reading 1, where God was shown to have given mercy to the Israelites by forgiving their disobedience and freeing them from exile. They are now joyful and grateful to God, and have faith in His caring for them in the future.


R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown
[iii], They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves [iv].
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Bringing In The Sheaves

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve; Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Refrain: Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves, Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze; By and by the harvest, and the labor ended, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Refrain.
Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves; When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
(Knowles Shaw 1874)   


Reading 2     Philippians 3:8-14                  (Life in Christ)

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless-love, and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – Paul’s conversion occurred by an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, and he became a recipient of God’s mercy and unconditional love. Following this, his future life was lived by a total trust in Jesus for all of his needs. Prior to his Damascus experience, Paul believed himself to be a “self-made” man, someone who saved himself by his interpretation of the Jewish laws. Now he has a totally new mind-set, his prior life without Christ was a total “loss”. He now knows that all that he is a total gift from God. He is a “graced sinner”, and so are we.


Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God [v], depending on faith to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, [vi] since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     John 8:1-11                      (Christ’s Forgiveness)

Context – The fourth gospel is not simply history; the narrative has been organized and adapted to serve the evangelist’s theological purposes as well. St. John the Theologian, the beloved disciple of Christ, explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. Jesus is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel. He also wrote the Book of Revelation and his three General Epistles – 1,2, & 3 John. Saint Jerome tells us that when John was a very old man his only message was “little children, love one another.” And when John’s followers asked him why he was always saying the same thing he always replied, “My children, this is what the Lord commands; if we do this, nothing else is necessary.” Originally St. John was a disciple of St. John the Baptist. The emblem for St. John was given the symbol of an eagle because his thoughts are especially exalted and his language is very majestic like the eagle that flies high above the earth. He was known as “The Theologian”, and the Apostle of Love”. He died in Ephesus of a natural death – the only one among the Apostles.

Today’s Reading – This is what biblical scholars call an “entrapment story”. In this event, Jesus’ enemies, the Pharisees, try to entrap Him. They bring to Him a woman who has been caught in adultery. (They obviously saw no need to bring the man.) They say to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” If Jesus pardoned the woman, He could be accused of encouraging people to break the Law of Moses. If He agreed that she should be stoned, He would lose His reputation for mercy. The Pharisees must have really thought they had Him, but Jesus outsmarts them. He does this by turning the focus on them and their sins. “Let the one among you without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus writes on the ground. Some have suggested that He wrote the sins of the accusers. “They went away, one by one, beginning with the elders.” Jesus turns the tables on the accusers. Now they become the accused. They come to Jesus only aware of the woman’s sins. They go away aware of their own sins. Finally, Jesus is left with the woman. Commenting on this story, St. Augustine says, “only two are left, misery and Mercy.” Jesus communicates to the shame-filled woman God’s mercy and unconditional love. She experiences the “new thing” – God’s mercy and love, which Isaiah spoke about in the Reading 1. Then Jesus challenges the woman to “go and sin no more.” Jesus condemns sin, pardons the sinner and calls her to repentance. He also calls the woman’s accusers to conversion.


Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning He arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to Him, and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” They said this to test Him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger. But when they continued asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So He was left alone with the woman before Him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, Sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 1846 – The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners. The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”


Archbishop Charles Chaput has stated the following in his prior six Lenten Homilies:

  1. Lent is a time for us to start all over again to make things new by examining our hearts (not our minds) for the teachings of Christ.

  2. Lent is a training camp for us (just like the beginning of baseball season) where the basic rules of the “game” are the “10 Words of God” (ie. the Ten Commandments).

  3. Abraham is our Father in Faith. He trusted God and we are to do the same in order to be all that God calls us to be. Trust God and follow Him where ever He leads us. And we will have everlasting life.

  4. Lent is about covenants (promises) – God’s promise to us and our promises to God. God always keeps His promises. We don’t and when we break our covenants, God gives us a chance to begin again – ie. LENT!

  5. To the Jews the heart was interpreted as the place within them where decisions were made, a place of intelligence. Therefore, that’s what God used in referring to the new covenant that He would “write it on their hearts” as opposed to the old covenant that was written on stone tablets. Thus the “heart” of Christianity is to be obedient to God our Father through His Son Jesus.

  6. To the Greeks, the term “seeking” means “to learn about”. Therefore the Gospel reading identifying that there were “Greeks seeking Jesus” meant that they wanted to learn about Jesus. The Gospel also mentions that Jesus said we need to “die” (ie. “give up what it is”) to ourselves in order to amount to something worthwhile. The foundation of Christian morality (ie. what are we to do) is to die to ourselves and live for God and others by imitating the life style of Jesus.

  7. The Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) message is that we should joyfully become the persona (character and personality) of Jesus.

  8. The Lenten messages for the first three Sundays of Lent are related to us (our personal conversion) the last three are related to Jesus (the One to whom we are to be converted).

In summary:
a. Remember our Baptism. Remember our cleansing from Original Sin and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, Christians clothed themselves in Christ. Paul now urges his readers to clothe themselves with the virtues that befit a follower of Christ: forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, etc.
b. “Listen to Him”. Follow God’s pronouncement, immediately stated after Jesus’ Transfiguration, that we are to listen to Jesus.
c. Worship the right God. Remember the first Commandment and don’t let worldly endeavors become more important than God in our lives.
d. Practice self-discipline. Avoid putting ourselves in the near occasion of sin – ie. avoid temptation, depart from evil.
e. Salvation through Jesus Christ. Sin cannot overcome the power of our belief in the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
f. God established Jesus as His New Covenant with humanity. God’s new law is now “written on the flesh” rather than stone tablets.
g. Renew our “hearts”, imitate Jesus and “die” to ourselves. Follow the Ten Commandments per Jesus’ real life example (by His thoughts, words, and deeds) and perform proper stewardship of our time, talents, and treasure in support of God and others.
h. Have the attitude of Jesus. Emptying oneself for the love of the Father by service to Him, leading to glory and resurrection.


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea (the parting of the Red Sea) and a path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick.” = Isaiah is reminding the Israelites, who are now in exile, that the Lord once rescued them from Egyptian captivity and from the 40 years in the desert. Remembering the past graces from God is a great way to bolster our faith, hope and thrust in Him that He will again help us in the future. This is good for us to do especially in times of trials and suffering.
[ii]Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new” = Isaiah is prophesizing that God is going to do something new and the people should focus on this fact and not on just wanting to return to the ways of the “good old days”.
[iii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown” = This represents their faith and hope for joy in the future (ie. the anticipation of the abundant harvest).
[iv] “They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves” = The sheaves are bundles of wheat, the harvest – the blessings from God that they hoped for and had faith that God would provide them.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“the righteousness from God” = Righteousness – a right relationship with God, it’s like faith, a free gift from God dependent only upon our willingness to humbly receive it. The righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).
[vi] “I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it” = Paul uses the term “pursuit” to show that what matters is to leave past achievements behind and to focus attention on what lies ahead.