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Lenten Reflections: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Mar. 11, 2016 - by Pat McDonough, Coordinator for Ministry in the NY Area

“Irish Alzheimer’s,” quipped author Frank McCourt, “is forgetting everything except the grudges.”

The Irish weren’t the first to find forgiveness a challenge. The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent recall the words of the prophet Isaiah, writing 2700 years ago, “Remember not the events of the past.”

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, encourages them to forget what lies behind, but strain forward to what lies ahead.

Modern science has proven that the words of this Sunday’s scriptures carry more than spiritual wisdom. They offer sound medical advice, as well. When we recall instances of hurt or betrayal, blood pressure and heart rate increases, immune systems are weakened, and sleeplessness, fatigue or depression can seep into our systems. Research has discovered that when we contemplate forgiveness, we feel less angry, less anxious and have fewer health problems. Reconciliation seems to suit us, both physically and spiritually, whereas holding each other hostage to past mistakes carries no benefits.

Jesus challenges those who are about to stone the adulterous woman to focus, not on her failings, but on their own faults. When asked to examine their own lives, they drop their stones. Without the weight of judgment in their hands, perhaps they were free to receive God’s gift of merciful love. Could their encounter with Jesus have changed them?

“Mercy is twice blessed,” Shakespeare said. If forgiveness is a win-win, what are we waiting for? In this Year of Mercy, may our mistakes be a source of grace that moves us toward claiming the freedom offered by forgiveness.

For Reflection:

Lent is a good time to rekindle the fires of forgiveness. Begin by praying for someone who has hurt you. Pray for someone who you may have wounded in some way. Ask God for the grace of reconciliation and healing, and the strength to resolve the conflict compassionately.