Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! (Isaiah 43:18-19a)
I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
“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 anymore.” (John 8:10b-11)
I am still recuperating from knee surgery. It will be a few weeks more before I am able to preside at Sunday liturgies. That means that I haven’t been preaching on Sunday since January 31. I will have missed all of the Sundays of Lent by the time I am released by the doctor to “go back to work.” I regret that simply because the readings for the Lenten Season are so full of things that need to be said from time to time.
As I was poring over the readings this morning, one thought really struck me. Each of the readings states rather forthrightly that we should forget about the past and look toward what lies ahead. Oh, if that were only possible. Forgetting past transgressions is something that many of us have a very hard time with. This is partly because forgetting is harder than forgiving. Other people make it hard for us to forget as well; someone in our life almost always loves to help us recall the foibles of the past.
Just as I have not been able to preside at Sunday liturgy for the past few weeks, I have also not had to hear confessions during Lent. Last Saturday I asked a fellow priest if he thought that confessions had increased during the Jubilee of Mercy. Very quickly he responded, “Definitely.” He also related that some people have told him in the confessional that it is precisely because of the Jubilee of Mercy that they decided to confess. Many of them had been carrying the load of their sins for thirty or more years. I was pleased to hear that Pope Francis’ beloved Year of Mercy was paying off dividends for some people.
Isaiah’s oracle is of the Lord speaking to the returning exiles after seventy or more years in captivity in Babylon. God urges them to forget about the past; specifically, God wants them to forget about the sins that brought the exile about.
In chapter three of his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes about the things that he used to consider important in his life; namely, his circumcision, he adherence to the Law, and his reputation of someone who was zealous for Judaic morality. Now, however, he says that he has forgotten all of that in order to revel in the knowledge of Jesus who has, by his death, made all of those things so much rubbish. He has forgotten his past and strives toward his future with Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus simply tells the woman caught in adultery that he does not condemn her and that she should sin no more. In other words, all is forgiven and forgotten. Don’t do it again.
The two words “forgive” and “forget” are often linked together. However, it is something that we come by easily. Not only do we have a hard time forgetting our own transgressions, we also have a hard time forgetting the sins committed against us. However, the Scriptures today make it ever so plain that this is exactly what God is asking of us today.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator