The Scriptures often invite us to remember. The Hebrew Scriptures today do just that, as the Lord asks the people to remember how far they have come from their nothingness and sin, and who it is that has brought them this far. The Lord says - remember! - and know that I am doing something new in your life. In the Gospel account today of the woman caught in the act of adultery and placed before Jesus for his condemnation according to the law of Moses, Jesus does something new. He does not condemn the sinner, but forgives, restores, and sends her forth with the admonition to "Go and sin no more." It is a new commandment, a new approach to sin rooted in mercy. But as he gives this new teaching, he also asks those nearby to remember. There is one school of thought that indicates that when he bent down and began writing on the ground, rather that pronouncing condemnation, he was actually writing out the sins of the people, starting with the scribes and leaders. Curious as to what he was writing, they saw the words, remembered their sinfulness, and quickly walked away.
But along with the remembering is the other, more difficult admonition to let go, to not hold onto our hurt or sin or resentment or frustration. If we do not let go, then we are prone to wallow in the past, to not get past the past ... and this is a major detriment to allowing something new to happen. The leaders of the people needed to let go of their self righteousness and the woman needed to let go of her sin. Without "letting go" there can be little healing. We see this in the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Church. A terrible sin and crime committed by a small fraction of priest and of bishops, some of whom were simply acting in the way they were told was best at the time, accused of cover up. Yet no matter what the Church does or how it responds to that scandal, there are some who cannot get beyond the hurt. For them the Church is forever tainted and there is no way that the Lord can lead the Church into doing something new.
The challenge that we face is tremendous, almost overwhelming. If we did not trust in God and believe in his Word, then we would be destined to repeat the past, to be stuck in place, to stop the journey with the Lord. But when confronted with those same challenges, the Lord says to us: "See, I am doing something new!"
This was the sight of this morning's Mass of the Holy Father in the Vatican. This is a picture I took years ago of the Saint Anne's Gate, and the Church of Saint Anne, the parish church of the Vatican, which is the grey stone building on the right. It is a nice small church where I had the privilege to concelebrate a number of years ago. Pope Francis celebrated Mass there, greeted the people outside following Mass (just like most of us do after Masses), and then walked down to the crowd along the street at the gate to greet people. A security nightmare, I am sure, but I like the guy.