'See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you see it?' In the Hebrew Scriptures we read of God's continual offer of renewal to his people. However, Isaiah seems to point forward to something utterly new. In the reading from the letter to the Philippians, Paul grasps the fundamental change that has come in Christ Jesus:
I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.
He is still running the race of faith, amidst the trials and tribulations of life here and now. He no longer sees himself as already saved by the law, nor in a position to judge others by it to their condemnation. This is a new freedom discovered in Jesus. He has come to free us from the condemnation of the law, but more importantly to free us from our sins.
The woman taken in adultery in today's Gospel stands condemned: 'Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery and Moses has ordered us in the law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?'
His answer, on reflection, is: 'If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' The supreme irony is that he is the one who is truly without sin, but will take the sins of the whole world, past, present and future, on his own back in his passion and death. Through him we are reconciled to God and to each other.
'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go away, and do not sin any more.' Perhaps he has in mind his own mother. In her we see the victory over sin and death for us. Yet she could have faced the condemnation of the law, but for Joseph's wanting to put her away quietly, until the manner of her conceiving was made known to him.
Mary's 'Yes' of faith made open for us the way to salvation. This freedom won for us in Jesus is not to be squandered. Even now he is making all things new for us in the Church and in the world through the Holy Spirit.
The appointment of over forty cardinals by the Pope in recent months, the renewal of the English and Welsh hierarchy with the new young bishops, the prospect of a Dominican General Chapter, all hold out possibilities of renewal and change at a personal and communal level. Then, of course, there is the possibility of a general election this year! We pray for a renewal of faith, energy and vision in our Order, Church and Society, for all the tasks which lie ahead of us.