The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Sunday, March 25, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
Most of us, if not all of us, have been in a situation when we wished with all our heart that we could be given another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start. This intense longing for another chance is not some impossible dream; it can become an actual reality. How do we know this? Today, through His Word proclaimed moments ago in our hearing, God is pledging Himself to give us another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start.
That is exactly what today's Gospel scene is projecting before our very eyes! The woman standing before Jesus had done a shameful thing — caught in the very act of adultery! She is guilty. Jesus does not pretend otherwise. But, while He acknowledges her guilt, He does not condemn her. He gives her what her heart so much desires: another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start! "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more." Can you imagine what she felt in her heart at hearing those words? The weight of sin and guilt was lifted; she was free again to begin a new way of living. The power of Christ at work in her made her dream of being forgiven come true.
Another chance — a new beginning — a fresh start: this was the promise made to the Jews in exile, the promise repeated in today's first reading: "see, I am doing something new!" Just as once their ancestors had been freed from slavery in Egypt, so God was promising those exiled in Babylon that He would bring them back to their native country. The power of God at work in them made their dream of returning home come true.
Another chance — a new beginning — a fresh start: St. Paul had experienced this in his own life. Once he had persecuted with vigor and determination the followers of Christ, but then he had been turned around by God's mercy and became converted. This second chance enabled Paul to come to know Jesus in a deeply personal way. That is why St. Paul is so enthusiastic in his words to us in the second reading. "I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." The power of Christ at work in Paul made his dream of knowing and loving the Promised Messiah come true.
Another chance — a new beginning — a fresh start: this is truly what God is promising you and me during this celebration of the Mass. And is not this the purpose of our Lenten pilgrimage: a 40-day opportunity through prayer, penance and almsgiving to hear God's promise and to respond by throwing open our hearts and letting Him change us, convert us, into new people? Is not Lent God's way of giving us another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start?
Maybe there is some sin in our past life which seems so terrible, so embarrassing, that we have not yet brought it to Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession. Lent is now in its fifth week, but it is not too late to go to Christ and the Church, made visible by the ordained priest in the Sacrament of Penance and there, like the woman in today's Gospel, honestly admit our sins and receive words of forgiveness and welcome.
Yes, this Lent, we truly are given another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start. What an opportunity! Let us seize it even more enthusiastically these last two weeks and continue to race towards the finish line — the joy of forgiveness and new life, the day of Easter and finally, at the end of our earthly journey, life on high in Christ Jesus! I conclude this reflection by sharing with you St. Augustine's observation on the Gospel scene we have just contemplated. "In the end, two are left: the one who needed mercy and mercy itself!" May we truly experience Christ's mercy in daily prayer and in the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. Yes, His mercy gives us another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start. Amen!