Fifth Sunday of Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent –
April 7, 2019
I have no idea where my mind was (or wasn’t) that morning some years ago. Mass began and I processed down the aisle as usual, finished the Gathering Song with the congregation and began: “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Mass has ended, go….” And right there I caught myself -- and from the back of church one of the parishioners shouted out, “Keep going, Father!”
But if there is one word I do want you to remember from the liturgy today, it’s this: Go! Far too often we get stuck right where we’re at. We get stuck in guilt and shame of some past sin or stuck in some stifling idea that there is a limit to God’s mercy. We get stuck in fear of what might happen or what we should do next. We get stuck in anger of something that happened in the past or in jealousy of what didn’t. We get stuck in our addictions and bad habits and neglect. We get stuck in grief or in worry. We get stuck in apathy or frustration in life. If you ever find yourself there…if you find yourself unable or unwilling to take the next step…to you, God says, “Go!”
When the people of God found themselves in exile, separated from their holy city and beloved homeland, God always gave them a way back. Exile was a pause in their long history to rekindle their faith and remember God’s promise. But God always gave a way for his children to go home. - Jesus did not stand in condemnation of the woman nor of the accusers. He simply created a pause in their lives, as if to take a breath and think about where they were heading and what they were doing, and then they left. Pausing to give time for the spirit of condemnation in the crowd to melt away, told the woman, “Go, and from now on don’t sin anymore.” - When St. Paul paused to reminisce on his faith journey he told his church that he considered everything of his past as rubbish, as a loss; he left it all behind as he came to follow Christ.
There is always movement forward with God; not stagnant, never backward, never away from God. Rather, we are given an invitation toward grace, a direction for hope, a path to heal.
So, please, Go! If you are stuck, still looking back on sins and failures and missteps of life, remember the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not.” Go! Live in the freedom of God’s grace and mercy that forgives all sin. Stop living in the world of what we were or even what we are, and journey to the world of what we can become.
Go! Stop holding on to grudges and resentments that weigh us down. Move out of the desert of bitterness and old wounds, and live, rather, in the joy of what tomorrow’s love might bring. Drop the stones of condemnation to hurl at the sinner; they may well become the very stones that are hurled back at you. Rather, offer your open hands of forgiveness, your heart of mercy; be the voice of Christ’s compassion and forgiveness so that others, too, may be free.
Go! Stop burying yourself in guilt and shame and remorse and failures. Go! Live in the wisdom of what your mistakes have taught you and how your failures have strengthened you. Listen to the words of Paul: Forget what lies behind; strain forward to what lies ahead; pursue the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Jesus Christ.
For God’s sake - and for your own - Go!