We all enjoy “something new:” a new friendship, the opportunity of a new job or ministry, a new home, a new discovery that can lead us in a new direction, the sense of new life after surgery or treatment for a life threatening illness. The prophet Isaiah invites us to contemplate “newness:”
Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
When St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was confined to prison and could have faced death, or at least the end of his mission. Yet, his words proclaim the “new beginnings” of a person near death. “I am racing to grasp the prize… I give no thought to what lies behind… My entire attention is on the finish line… life on high in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, for Paul, the “something new” was life with Christ.
The Gospel of John announces the “new beginning” of a sinner. She was forced to stand publicly before Jesus and all the people in the temple area. She has been caught, they triumphantly announce, “in adultery.” The law clearly stipulates that she shall be put to death. Jesus is caught between his own rule of forgiveness and Moses’s law of death, between his popularity with the crowd who understand the weakness of the flesh and his standing with the religious authorities who rigidly hold to the law. They confront Jesus, and he responds by bending down and writing on the ground with his finger. We wonder what he wrote. Was he simply doodling? Taking a moment to pray, asking his Father in heaven, “What shall I tell them?” After contemplating, he responds: “Let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, they went away. Jesus turned to the woman and offered her “a new beginning.” When we are placed in the position to judge, perhaps we, too, should bend down and doodle; take time to contemplate and offer a life-giving response. When we are the one being judged, let us turn to Jesus as the center of our lives, who forgives when the world condemns, who renews us and offers each of us a new beginning.