Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 7, 2019 | Sister Suzanne Fitzmaurice, OSB

In tonight’s Gospel reading, we heard about Jesus sitting and talking with people in the temple court when he is suddenly presented with a woman who is accused of adultery. Jesus must now respond to a situation that I am sure was not on his agenda for the day. As we all know, he pauses, thinks, and responds with the simple statement. “Let anyone among you who is without sin throw the first stone.” After everyone walks away, he offers the woman forgiveness and a chance to make a new start – to choose another way. An interruption of his agenda turned into an opportunity of grace.

As I was first reflecting on this reading, it brought to mind a new television show that combines two of my favorite things. Faith and technology. The show is about a young man. Miles, who is the son of an Episcopal priest but has abandoned his faith. One day, out of nowhere, he gets a friend request on Facebook from God. He thinks it is a joke but eventually accepts the request. Then he starts to receive friend suggestions for complete strangers from God. Each request leads to an encounter to help that individual in some way or another. The requests always come unexpectedly and each one has a unique twist. Miles must figure out how best to respond in each of the new situations. He then shares his encounters with others through a podcast or radio show. The show itself isn’t the most advanced of programs but each week, I have found it gives me something to think about, something to reflect on. In this week’s episode, Miles realizes that after months of searching and investigating, he really doesn’t want to know who is sending the messages. What really matters is the response – which for him stems from faith. Faith in what you are doing. Faith in the people you are helping. Faith in the people in your life. Faith that you are making a difference in the world no matter how crazy or what people think. It isn’t about where the message comes from, it is about how we respond when those messages interrupt our day.

Unlike Miles, our phones are not ringing to let us know who specifically we should seek out or the places we should go to make a difference. But don’t each of us receive these messages in other ways? All throughout Lent, each of us has been sent friend requests or our own messages. Through each other, we have been given a chance to stop, think and respond to what is shared. Sister Mary Agnes spoke about being afraid to go into the desert of the unknown but coming through stronger and more trusting. Sister Delores reflected on finding courage and listening. Sister Barb shared the impact of repentance and challenged us to identify who is on our bucket list of healing. Finally, last week, Sister Micaela conveyed the abundant compassion and love of God and the feeling of being held silently against God’s heart. Just like Jesus that afternoon in the temple, each one of us had our days unexpectedly interrupted and we were challenged to respond in our own unique way. We too are given a chance to pause, think and respond to our own opportunities of grace. It may not be accepting the friend request from God or from a complete stranger but are we just as willing to put down our plans and respond to the requests that we encounter in so many ways each day? Our phones may not be ringing but if we listen, the invitations and messages are there.