Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2013
- Isaiah 43:16-21
- Philippians 3:8-14
- John 8:1-11
What joy and hope we all experienced this week when we realized it was white smoke billowing out of the Sistine Chapel chimney; and then the hour-long wait to find out who our new Holy Father would be. And what a choice the Cardinals made as they followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Tears came to my eyes as Pope Francis asked the world to bless him and then bowed down in an act of total humility – truly showing what it means to be the servant to the servants of God. We must continue to pray for him as he takes on this most awesome of tasks – being the Vicar of Christ on earth as he leads the Catholic Church. It’s an exciting time to be Catholic.
The gospels for last week and for this week have a common theme. Last week, we heard the parable of the prodigal son or as some have said the parable of the Loving Father. Through this amazing story, Jesus lets us know that our heavenly Father always stands ready to shower us with unconditional love and mercy. Regardless of what we’ve done in the past; no matter what sins we have committed or struggle with every day; if we merely make the first move to return, our heavenly Father will race towards us – ready to embrace us in his loving arms.
Today, we have another example God’s love and mercy. Jesus is confronted in a very public way with a woman who was found in the very act of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees want to test Jesus as they look to build a case for his arrest.
So they ask Jesus if he agrees with the Law of Moses, that this woman should be stoned by the community. Who is Jesus? God, right?! Absolutely, and by all rights, God, the creator of this woman and creator of the moral law, has every right to pass judgment on her.
But let’s not sit here as observers. That’s too easy. Let’s put ourselves into the event. Maybe our sin is adultery. Maybe we stand before our Lord as an abuser of pornography, alcohol or drugs. Maybe we abuse our bodies by overeating. Maybe we have torn the fabric of a relationship, with our spouse, with a child, with a parent or sibling. Our sins, whatever they are, stain, strain and can break our relationship with God.
Now our culture tells us, “Don’t worry about it.” Our culture tells us to overlook that last line of today’s Gospel, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s be clear here. What the woman did was sinful. Jesus minced no words about that. His parting command to the woman and to you and me is, “Go and sin no more.” When we go to Confession and we say our Act of Contrition; that is our response to his command. We tell God that we will do everything in our power to avoid sinning again. With God’s grace, we seek to keep turned toward the light of Christ and live not according to our own imperfect will, but in God’s perfect will.
So, whatever our sin is, if we are honest with ourselves, we find ourselves beside this woman, our sin on full display. But what is Jesus reaction? Remember, he has every right to pass judgment, on her; on me; on you. But that isn’t what happens. Jesus bends over … and begins to write in the sand.
And he waits ……….. perhaps to give the woman, and us, time; time for us to realize the gravity of our sin; time for us to realize the damage that sin has done to our lives and the lives of those around us. What might seem for a time to fill a hole in our heart, we soon find does not satisfy. Unchecked, our sin ultimately consumes, shreds and destroys.
Jesus finally looks up and sees only the woman in front of him. I can imagine that he looked deeply beyond her eyes and into her very soul. He looks into my eyes and yours – looking beyond the façade of the person we want everyone to see. He looks past all those false fronts we put up for the world to see. He looks into the depths of this woman’s soul as he does with us; and in doing so he teaches us about mercy and love that is beyond our comprehension. Listen to the words of Blessed Charles de Foucalde:
“How many are your mercies, O God – mercies yesterday and today, and at every moment of my life, from before my birth, from before time itself began! I am plunged deep in mercies – I drown in them; they cover me, wrapping me around every side.”
My brothers and sisters, we have a God whose love and mercy is boundless. It’s unconditional. All we need do is make that turn back toward the light of Christ – and our God will race towards us to shower us with his mercy and love. And in his love, he calls us out of our sin and gives us the grace to go and sin no more.
We have just over a week left in Lent to examine ourselves. Are we living in the flesh, turned away from the light of Christ? Restoration is available through the doors of these Confessionals. If you have not recently participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of God’s mercy, you still have several opportunities before Lent comes to a close. This Wednesday, you can come before the 5:30pm Mass or from 6:30-8pm for the last evening of Bishop Gainer’s “The Light is on for you” initiative. You can come Saturday at the regular times and a week from this Wednesday is the Parish Reconciliation Service. You have every opportunity to make that turn back to the light of Christ during these last days of Lent. Turn and allow Jesus, through his priest, to break the chains of sin. Let him restore you in the fullness of freedom God intends for those who love him and believe in him.