The lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C) tell us very plainly that God is “doing something new!” What a refreshing thing to hear from sacred scripture- perhaps our music for the Fifth Sunday of Lent can pickup that theme.
So what is the new thing? Mercy, apparently. Jesus does not condemn the adulterous woman, but rather admonishes her to sin no more. Obviously, the adulterous woman is us- we who are unfaithful to the covenant God has made with us. Like the animals in the Abrahamic ritual a few weeks ago, we ought to be torn in two for our infidelity. But God, in Christ Jesus, reaches out to us in forgiveness and mercy.
And Paul makes sure we understand something else- while we are admonished to “sin no longer,” it is not our own self-improvement that is our salvation from the wages of our own sin, but rather our “sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death.” That is, when we participate in his death through baptism (we’ll hear all about this from Paul at the Easter Vigil), we take hold of the righteousness of the resurrection.
But it doesn’t end there for Paul, nor should it for us. We are not simply absolved of our duty to “sin no longer.” Baptism may be a one time event, but conformity to the sufferings of Christ, is a lifelong process- even for someone with as miraculously spectacular a conversion experience as Paul.