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5th Sunday in Lent, Year C – Homily

5th Sunday of Lent, Year C
Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Philippians 3:8-14
John 8:1-11
March 13, 2016

Many people come to hear Jesus speak.  Some may simply be curious.  Others come with a deep faith while others come to test him.

We see this in the scribes and the Pharisees who bring the woman caught in adultery to him.  They would say that their interest is in upholding the law.  There can be no disputing that she has broken the commandment against adultery.  The punishment called for by Moses is clear, stoning.

I have to wonder if these scribes and Pharisees are beginning to understand that Jesus would not be in favor of stoning but it doesn’t really matter to them.  If Jesus says to go ahead with the stoning, they will say the Romans do not allow them to do it and criticize Jesus for upsetting the Romans.  If Jesus says not to stone him, they can say he doesn’t follow the Mosaic Law.

Of course, Jesus knows what they are thinking but he is not deterred.  He takes their question about stoning and turns it into a moment of reflection and instruction.

His first response could have anger or correction.  Instead, Jesus first response is to say nothing.  He writes something on the ground but we are never told what He writes nor does it seem to have any effect on the Pharisees and the scribes because they continued to ask Him about stoning her.

So Jesus replies, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Of course, the scribes and the Pharisees would like to respond that they are without sin because they claim to follow and uphold the Law.  Yet, they do not respond.  They know that if they cast the first stone, Jesus will point out their sins.

Nobody says anything but they go away one by one till it is just Jesus and the woman left.  He tells her he does not condemn her and for her to go and sin no more.

Jesus does not change the law.  He never says that adultery is now ok.  The commandment remains to not commit adultery.  Likewise, He does not argue what Moses said about stoning such people.  He never tells the woman that her sin was ok.  He says go and sin no more.  That means she sinned or He won’t have said no more.

Jesus does not condemn her or us.  If Jesus simply wanted to condemn sinners, He did not need to come into the word.  The Law was already in place.

Jesus came to do something “new”.  Jesus came to show us the way of forgiveness.  Yes, she sinned and so has everyone else.  So stop judging!

When I say “new” I need to make a clarification.  To the people the forgiveness that Jesus shows could be seen as new as opposed to the punishment from God in the Old Testament.  However, forgiveness is not new.  For instance, remember how when the people made a molten calf as an idol to worship.  God could have punished them but He forgive them.  The Old Testament has numerous stories of God’s forgiveness.

It is easy for us to judge!  We have the Bible that helps us to identify sins.  We know, well we should know, what the Bible teaches.  We could look at people and say they are terrible for breaking the commandments.  They we can get self-righteous and start judging them for anything they do differently than the way we would.  We put ourselves on the pedestal of pride.

I’ve mentioned in recent weeks that one of the spiritual works of mercy is to “admonish the sinner” but this is not a call to judge.  It is a call to help others turn their lives to Christ.  It is meant to be an act of compassion, not judgment.

Who are we to judge?  What is to be gained by judging?

Which is more helpful to the woman who had been caught in adultery?  To stone her, which meant death, leaving her no chance to repent or to acknowledge her sin with compassion and mercy and to hope that leads her to repent?

God wants us to repent and receive his mercy.

Do we see the Sacrament of Reconciliation as judgment or mercy?  The penances given in years long past used to be very rigorous, lasting weeks sometimes.  We were motivated more by guilt to confess than seeking mercy.

When I sit in the confessional, I choose not to judge.  I think of my own sins and am motivated to mercy.  The goal of anything I say in the confessional is not judge.  The goal is to help people live as Jesus teaches us.  Jesus teaches us to forgive.

We need God’s forgiveness.  We want God’s forgiveness.  That’s why I was in the confessional for seven hours this past Wednesday.  The only reason I could do this was the grace of the sacrament.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the one confessing receives the grace of forgiveness.  In being the one hearing the confessions, I receive the grace to be God’s instrument in the sacrament.  That’s how I went for seven hours without a break.  I didn’t take a break because I didn’t need a break. Honestly, it was probably the best day so far this year for me.

God’s forgiveness and mercy is a powerful thing for the one receiving it and for the one offering to others.  Who do you need to forgive?  Who can you bring God’s mercy to?  Doesn’t it feel good to forgive?

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