During Lent we have readings which, in piecemeal manner, give us a glimpse of who God is. Recently we had the Gospel showing us God like a cultivator who works patiently on his fig tree; last Sunday we had the face of a merciful God. What does this Sunday bring us? Suspense! Come, let’s see!
Isaiah 43: 16-21
Philippians 3: 8-14
John 8: 1-11
Arresting power of suspense
Suspense absorbs and glues you, rendering you somewhat oblivious to the ticking time. There you are before TV screen, edgy to find out what happens next. Or perhaps it’s a novel. You keep turning pages and there’s no way of putting the book down, you are seized by the urge to see how the mystery finally unties. In the end, that big volume is done in a night is done. What a night! When others are waking up -that’s when you think of sleeping. Oh, power of suspense!
While suspense may be sweet and inviting, at times, it can also be quite agonising. Imagine your hero, towards whom you have now developed some affection, walks right where there’s a trap of explosives; you know it and he doesn’t know. Or perhaps, naively, he enters a room where someone is waiting, ready to pull a trigger on him. You know too well that no matter how hair-raising the trial may be, normally, the Hero should finally come out victorious. His last kick is decisive and overturns the scene. However, even when you are aware of that, you are not spared of emotional sway; you suffer the agony from what you fear to happen to your super hero. Isn’t the film of our life like that?
Suspense in the first reading
The reading talks about God who intends to liberate his people from captivity in Babylon. The people of Israel have suffered for so long a time that they just don’t see anymore their way out. They have given up hope. But what heightens the suspense in this text?
Firstly, I want to draw your attention to the skill with which this text is weaved. In fact, the author recounts the liberation here in terms of the liberation from Egypt. Look at the images used! God says he’s going to make the way through the mighty waters of the sea; didn’t God separate the waters so that his people could cross dry-shod? Then, the text talks about the chariots, horses, and the army that lie in there and never to rise again –extinguished like a wick. Didn’t the army of Pharaoh perish in the sea, never to be seen again? If you can turn the event into a film, the suspense is terrific.
The sons of Israel leave Egypt excited that they are now free. But before long you have a reinforced army that is mobilised in order to catch them up. The people of Israel try to increase their strides to be safely away from the coming troop. But for how long? Apparently, they can’t move any further -there’s a sea. And so, the chance of survival is minimal, if not zero. Either they make themselves perish in the sea or surrender themselves to the army and return to Egypt as slaves. Well, just remember, the last word belongs neither to the feeling of hopelessness nor to the powerful army of Pharaoh. It’s the hero who has the decisive kick -in this film, it’s God who’s the star.
It’s a powerful reminder!
To this people who have hit the bottom of the pit, Isaiah resonates the extraordinary deeds of God. Just like he saved their forefathers in their impasse; God will do it again, this time for their children. Indeed, later, like in a dream, they will sing full of joy for that unbelievable event:
When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy...
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
Who knows? You may be the next one to sing this song, as if just a dream. There’s hope for you! Suspense continues in the Gospel also.
Decisive kick of Jesus
In the Gospel, we have another film. A woman is caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Surely, she wasn’t alone (if only we can engage the FBI get him also!). The act is clearly guided by the law, no discussion: she must be stoned to death. Simple! After all, is not a “law of God”? That seems to allow little room for manoeuvre. But here again, it’s not religious fundamentalism or your feeling that runs the show.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” Jesus tells the mob. No hand, apparently, can bear anymore the weight of the stone and the accuser, one by one, just disappear. There you have the last kick of the hero -a kick full of mercy. Of course, Jesus condemns no one; he’s only inviting each person to go deep down their conscience and see for themselves if, they too, are not in need of mercy.
Liberating, merciful love
There you have another face of God that Jesus reveals to us this Sunday. In the film of our life we have probably lived an anguishing suspense where we tempted to threw in the tower, persuaded that was game over. But if you are reading this text, it’s probably because what you dreaded would happen actually didn’t. However, even when we believe that it’s God who has the last, decisive kick, our emotions are not on this level of faith, as a result, a number of times we suffer from anguish, fear and desperateness.
Encouraged by this Sunday’s word of God, I want to continue my Lenten journey; I trust the hero in the film of my life. Even when things reach the breaking point, I know the last kick is his -a kick of mercy and liberation. Yes, I believe, there’s hope for you and for me.
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