We must serve the Lord with justice and mercy
Reflections on the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 7, 2019): IS 43:16-21; PS 126:1-2,2-3,4-5,6; PHIL 3:8:14; JN 8:1-11
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
In the reading for today, Jesus’ profound forgiveness and compassion are demonstrated in one of the Gospel’s most famous passages.
A woman taken in the act of adultery is brought before Christ by a group of scribes and Pharisees. Legally, she should be stoned to death. They want to test Jesus by making Him choose sides – either with the Law of Moses that all Jews live by or with the generous mercy of God that He proclaims to all. Instead, He ignores them and traces something in the dust. We do not know what it was; possibly sins committed by these men. But when they keep pressing Him to answer, Christ looks at them and utters what have become some of the best known words in Scripture: “‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again He bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders” (John 8:7-8).
These religious leaders were so anxious to entrap Jesus that the woman became merely a pawn. They were only too ready to condemn her sin and kill her with their own hands. After all, they would be obeying the law. Jesus was their real target. He would lose the respect of His disciples whether he sided with these leaders or opposed them by trying to spare her life. These men were incapable of recognizing their own sins, including their fear and hatred of our Lord. But shamed by Jesus’ response, they stole away. Sadly, they did not acknowledge or repent the evil in their souls; they just could not stand in public and pretend they themselves were guiltless. And, sadly, too, we are often ready to point our fingers at the faults of others while refusing to admit our own. We may not carry stones, but mean, angry and judgmental words can still wound others.