Lent 5th Sunday

Is. 43: 16-21                             Phil. 3: 8-14                             Jn. 8: 1-11



Let us not allow our past to adversely determine and destroy our present and the future.


Bound by the Past:

We, human beings, have got some sort of proclivity for our past. However burdensome and painful it is, we seem to derive a certain amount of pleasure in reliving it. This seems to be the reason why many of us prefer to dwell in the past and suffer out of it. People indulge in their past in different ways for different reasons. There are people who carry a lot of guilt conscience by thinking of the sins they voluntarily or involuntarily committed in the past. There are also people, who, nursing their wounds inflicted upon them by others in the past, want to take revenge upon others. Still there are also people, who, thinking of their happy old days, encounter the present with a lot of grudge and murmur. All these types of people unfortunately allow their past to condition and control their present and the future.

Once someone asked Mullah, “If you happen to suffer from rabies, what will you  do?” Mullah answered, “I will ask for a paper and pencil.” The questioner did not understand the reason why on earth someone, suffering from rabies, will ask for paper and pencil. While he enquired Mullah about his strange answer, Mullah said, “It is to write down the names of people, whom I should bite. A lot of people have hurt me and that would be a nice time to take revenge upon them.” Like Mullah, many of us want to take revenge upon others. However the painful truth is that our revengeful attitude hurts and harms us more than others. It makes us get stuck up in the past and affects our well-being more than anybody else’s.

Freedom from the Past:

One of the marks of human maturity is to throw away the past and face the present head on however difficult it is. Living our life by dwelling in the past is like looking at the rear view mirror and driving a vehicle. There are more scopes for accident. The readings today invite us to throw away our past and start to live in the present with renewed hope and enthusiasm.

(a). The history of the Israel was a history of slavery and subjugation. When the Israelites looked back into their past, they could see nothing but hard labour, oppression, scars, destruction of their temple and annihilation of their nation. Naturally it would leave a group with a lot of anger, bitterness and consequently with depression and hopelessness. Exactly that is what the Israelites suffered from. It was at this juncture God through Isaiah exhorted them not to be conditioned by their past: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing.”

(b) St. Paul was a person who had so much to regret about the past. Because of his ritualistic and fundamentalist approach towards his Jewish religion, he was ready to torture, even to kill people. That is what he did to the early Christians. He was an accomplice in the murder of Stephen (Acts 7: 58); He breathed threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9: 1); He persecuted the early Christians. But after conversion, when Paul looked into his past, it filled him with remorse and regret. It seems that he carried a lot of guilt. We see him often mentioning in his preaching that he persecuted the Church of God (Acts. 22: 4, 26: 11, 1Cor. 15:9, Gal. 1: 13, Phi. 3: 6, 1Tim. 1: 13). According to some Biblical authors, the ‘thorn’ he speaks of in 2Cor 12: 7 could probably refer to his guilt.

However he was also a person who tried not to be conditioned by the past. His words, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” tells us that he was trying to transcend his past.

(c) The adulterous woman was yet another person who carried a bitter past. She might have been in this sinful life, not because she derived so much of pleasure out it, but because of economic and social conditions. Moreover in all probability she would have carried a lot of guilt about it since adultery in Jewish society was an abominable sin and one of the forbidden things in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 14). She would have felt bad that she was transgressing the Ten Commandments, a serious sin for the Israelites. Added to all these things was the public humiliation she had in the hands of the Pharisees now. No wonder that she was carrying something which was beyond her capacity. Jesus freed her from all these burdens of the past by just telling her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Dwelling in the past has got many disadvantages. It does not allow us to totally live in the present; It conditions and colours our perception of reality; it makes us carry a huge burden of hurt and guilt; In turn, it affects our health and well-being. Medical researches tells us that indulging in the past negative events puts our body under stress and tension. Though it is occasionally good to look into the past in order to learn lessons, it is not certainly advisable to dwell in the past. Says Ivern Ball, “The past should be a springboard, not a hammer.”

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