Recognizing God's Gifts on the 5th Sunday of Lent

By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

lst reading Is 43:P16-21; 2nd reading Phil 3:8-14; Gospel  John 8:1-11

All 3 readings for today’s Eucharist are filled with reminders of God’s goodness and love for us. In the first reading we hear, “See, I am doing something new …  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive? I put water in the desert, rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink; people whom I formed for myself.”

I spent a week in the Sinai Desert and know the fear and uneasiness one feels wandering around, uncertain if there will be water. Today we are reminded God puts water (or whatever we need) there for us. God has “formed us as a people for himself.”  Can we really believe this?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians speaks “of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” to the extent that he says, “I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.” Paul may sound like he is bragging, but I believe he lived a life in such closeness with Christ, surrendering his body, mind and will, that he experienced union with Christ. This unity is so grounded in Paul’s life that he can say with conviction, “I have been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.” What would it take to be able to say Christ has taken possession of us?

The gospel reminds us that not everyone is as generous and faith-filled as Paul. We have the story of the adulterous woman brought to Jesus by band of judgmental men (who fail to bring the adulterous man to him).

Jesus sees their hypocrisy; he knows they are testing him. We do not know what he wrote in the sand. Perhaps it was the Greek translation of the word sin as target or mark. He draws lines reminding the woman she has missed it, and should redirect her life. He leaves her room and space to grow, to redirect her energy and actions. And he leaves the men with the invitation to throw stones  at the woman. The elderly, who according to custom would pick up the first stone, were the first ones to leave.


  • Has Lent been like a place in the desert for us where God fills us with refreshing water? Imagine, these next two weeks, crossing a desert and recognizing God’s gifts.
  • Spend some time praying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Let’s ask how we can grow in faith so like Paul we can say, “Christ has taken possession of me.” What must we let go of for that to occur?
  • This week let’s make plans to go to a communal Penance Service to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Easter Sunday.

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