Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 7, 2019 Cycle C

by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).

There is nothing greater in life than the knowledge of Christ! In today’s second reading, Saint Paul says the knowledge of Jesus is such a great gift that all other things in life are considered a loss. This knowledge is the hidden treasure in Jesus’ parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). There is nothing in this world more sweet, peaceful, gentle or kind than the love of Christ.

To know Christ is the “supreme good” that fulfills our lives. Saint Paul says: “I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Phil 3:8‒9). As we come to know Christ, we come to know ourselves. Saint John Paul II said the following in the homily for the inauguration of his pontificate: “The absolute and yet sweet and gentle power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. […] Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”

The knowledge of Jesus is the fulfillment referred to in today’s psalm refrain: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” To know Christ is happiness.

To know Christ Jesus is not speculation but living knowledge, not an abstraction but an existential experience. To come to know Jesus means to deepen the grace, received in a moment of light and joy, of our encounter with him.

To know Christ is to recognize his presence in all things. It is to acknowledge that the power of his cross and resurrection is everywhere: “To know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death” (Phil 3:10). We do not come to know Christ without suffering. Thus, to come to know Christ is the experience of passing from death to life, the living of our baptism.

To know Christ is to know that he is really alive. He is here right now! Today’s first reading says: “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?” (Is 43:18‒19). To come to know Jesus is to come to see reality in a totally new way.

To know Christ is to be possessed by him and possess all things in him. Saint Paul says: “I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12). As we come to know Jesus, everything becomes ours. The apostle says: “Everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God” (1 Cor 3:21‒23).

To know Christ involves the existential experience of being saved from sin and death, like St. Paul and the adulterous woman. In today’s Gospel, Jesus not only saves the adulterous woman from death but also forgives her sins: “Has no one condemned you? […] Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11).

The adulterous woman, a sinner condemned to death, symbolizes our human condition. The Old Testament prophets compared Israel’s sin of idolatry, unfaithfulness to God, to the sin of adultery. Jesus saved the adulterous woman from being stoned and forgave her sins, as he saves us from death and sin.

To know Christ Jesus, the supreme good of our lives, is to be truly saved from sin and death.

Let us ask for the grace of knowing “the incomparable riches of Christ” (Ef 3:8). May the knowledge of Jesus pervade our hearts and make us his bold witnesses in the world.  Amen.