Tuesday, March 8, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent - Cycle C

Practice what you preach.  Pope Francis, in declaring this the Jubilee Year of Mercy, is teaching us the importance of doing just that… being a living example of God’s love and mercy.  In our readings this week we learn that righteousness without mercy is nothing short of being a bullying… beating up on others without consideration for the humanity of another and the context of their situation.  What would Jesus do?

Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Philippians 3:8-14
John 8:1-11

Our first reading is from Deutero or Second-Isaiah.  Israel is sitting in Exile in Babylon, and here the prophet is telling us that God sees the events of the past as just that… the past.  In other words, whatever sin the people of Israel may have committed in the past should be put aside.  God, who can make all things happen, sees a re-birth for his people.  “See, I am doing something new!”  God wants to end the cycle of sin and punishment and welcome his people back.  Like the father in last week’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, Israel has learned its lesson, and God is waiting for them.  This end to the Exile is sung with revelry in our Psalm as we sing, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”

Our second reading also reflects the “newness” of living in God’s grace.  In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul is telling us that his life prior to finding Christ was “so much rubbish.”  His encounter with the risen Jesus gave him a new direction and a new purpose… the pursuit of the Gospel.  If we’re going to move forward with our lives, that means leaving our baggage behind.

Our Gospel this week deviates from our journey with Luke to give us a story unique to John’s Gospel.  Jesus is teaching in the Temple area when a group of scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to him who was caught in adultery.  They are testing him again, saying that the Law of Moses was clear in this matter… that she should be stoned.  The story says that Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground… an action that was considered to be utterly dismissive of their challenge (what he wrote is inconsequential as it’s the act of his dismissiveness that is the key).  Undeterred by his indifference, they press Jesus further.  After a moment, he stands and tells them “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Jesus then takes his dismissive posture again, and one by one, the crowd begins to disburse.  Left alone with the woman, Jesus stands and asks, “Has no one condemned you?”  She replies, “No one, sir,” to which Jesus says “Neither do I,” telling her to go and sin no more (that phrase we hear during the Sacrament of Reconciliation).

Final thoughts:
What’s past is past.  This is the Christian ideal.  We’re all sinners.  We’ve all made mistakes.  Jesus showed us that a society focused on punishment is counter-productive.  Who better to understand the grace of mercy and reconciliation than those of us who follow Jesus.  We, the imperfect, ever striving for perfection in Christ.  Yet we see far too many people labeling themselves as “Christian” who spend far too much time casting stones instead of reaching out.  Beware these false prophets brothers and sisters.  None of us is without sin.  None of us in a position to cast stones.  It is only through mercy that we can find reconciliation and salvation.

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