Homily  Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Isa 43:16-21; Ps 126:1-6; Phil 3:8-14 and John 8:1-11
“When the Lord Delivered Zion from Bondage It was Like a Dream…” (Ps 126)
These words of the psalmist sum up the one of the central themes of today’s reading: the redeeming power of God. The Lord will never abandon his pilgrim Church, of saint and sinners, including the “woman caught in the very act of committing adultery,” in today’s gospel passage.
God’s reassurance never to abandon us, no matter the thickness of our wilderness, of our brokenness and struggles seeking redemption, is off course, traceable to the first reading (Isa43:16-21). Second Isaiah takes us back to the events of the exodus. God saved and protected Israel in the wilderness. Encouraging those in exiled, the frustrated, those who had lost their homes, their relatives, their properties, their temple, their freedom to worship, their fundamental human right, to the Babylonian military, Isaiah’s says, God “makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior… I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
The joy and hope of this freedom finds expressions in Psalm 126: An interesting prayer;“When the Lord brought back captives from Zion, it was like a dream, then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with great joy. Then they said among the nation, “the Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we were glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap with joy. Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”
What a joyful and a hopeful prayer for Lent, especially in this year of Mercy. It acknowledges God’s watchfulness over us. It acknowledges God’s blessings, his divine mercies both in the past, and in the present. It appeals for the future, since we are sinners seeking forgiveness and journeying to that Promised Land!
Look at the woman in today’s gospel- the figure of a sinner, like any of us! In spite of the insinuation of the Scribes and the Pharisees, Christ insists she deserves forgiveness. She deserves to live, and not to be stoned to death. The God of Lent is gracious and merciful! The Christ of Lent is forgiving. He loves us to the Cross!
Saint Paul in all his missionary works and imperfection acknowledges this too. Addressing the church in Philippi, Paul says,
“It is not that I have already taken hold of it (kingdom of God) or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it… 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 (Phil 3:8-14).
All of us are on a journey- traveling from and through different routes and wildernesses – to the Promised Land! Sometimes the roads are rough and dry as the desert. The seas, the captivities, the oceans and the mountains may seem insurmountable. But it is only the Lord who can make ways for us through these seeming insurmountable of poverty, wars, sudden loss of our loved ones, frustration, threats of terrorism, and uncertain socio-political structures in global nations; family challenges; and faith struggles in the face of increasing secularism with pluralism of cultures, religions and ideologies!
Whatever form our captivities, dryness, sins, weaknesses and life challenges may take, Lent invites us to re-acknowledge God’s power of freedom, his love, his mercy, his compassion, his forgiveness, his liberation,and redemption manifested in Christ and his values, for when the Lord delivered Zion from bondage it was like a dream!