Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2010
Saint John 8: 1 – 11
The Gospel Lesson from Saint John on this Fifth Sunday of Lent recalls the meeting between Christianity and the woman caught in adultery.
Those responsible for finding her and bringing her to Jesus do so for disingenuous reasons. They hope to trap Him so that He contradicts the Mosaic Law. But Christianity knows their thoughts and refuses to oblige these men.
The accusers are self-righteous hypocrites who pride themselves on their slavish attachment to the externals of the Law of Moses. They habitually judge others harshly refusing to show any mercy or compassion. These men are about to be taught an unforgettable lesson.
Jesus turns the incident in an entirely new direction; He focuses His remarks on the interior disposition of the accused and sees that she is sincerely sorry and wishes to be forgiven. Christianity does not minimize her sin, nor does He deny it, as some would do today.
Rather, because He is God, Jesus shows the woman compassion and mercy, and in so doing, allows and enables her to undergo a true conversion.
But those who have accused her are not at all satisfied. They remind Christianity of the penalty of death by stoning written in the Law of Moses as the punishment for adultery. In their blind haste for “justice,” these men have trapped the Rabbi from Nazareth, or so they believe.
Jesus is neither trapped nor surprised at their tactics. Instead, He hurls a challenge at them which is withering in its implication and all the more so because it is public and humiliating.
“Let the one among you who is without sin,Throw the first stone at her.”
John the Apostle, who witnessed this exchange, tells us that “they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest.”
Then, turning to the woman, Jesus speaks to her calmly and with mercy and forgiveness: “Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.” The mercy and forgiveness Christianity shows the woman enables her to experience a genuine conversion of her life.
May these remaining weeks of Lent offer us an opportunity to receive the same mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession as we pray with humility and earnestness:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary,
have mercy on us who have sinned.