Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Readings of the Day
RB: Ch 55:1-14 Clothing and Footwear for the Community
Mass: Is 43:16-21; Resp Ps 126; Ph 3:8-14; Jn 8:1-11 or readings for Year A: Ezk 37:12-14; Resp Ps 130; Rm 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Today's Gospel presents a frightening scene: Then the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They 'made' her stand in the middle. If found guilty, the woman would be stoned as prescribed by the law commanded by Moses. The scene conjures up in my mind the film The Stoning of Soraya M., a story the DVD jacket calls 'chilling'. Stoning as a method of capital punishment continues to take place in our world in countries like Brunei and others.

Although these thoughts may disturb us, the Gospel may be calling us to expand our thinking. It is easy to dismiss acts such as stoning as something that belongs to a different age or a different culture. There may be other ways that we stone people without literally throwing a stone. Are there times when we 'make' others stand in the middle and stone them from afar? Do we cast stones of judgement, fear, anger, or jealousy? In today's Angelus Address Pope Francis speaks of 'the stones of denigration and condemnation, of gossiping that at times we hurl against others.' I recall the saying that when I point one finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing at me! Thinking of something like that is what should disturb me. Jesus is speaking to us now: Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.


Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.
(Verse before the Gospel, April 7, 2019)

What follows is the reading from our celebration of Vigils, taken from Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 21, 2010:

We have reached the Fifth Sunday of Lent in which the Liturgy this year presents to us the Gospel episode of Jesus who saves an adulterous woman condemned to death (Jn 8:1-11). While he is teaching at the Temple the Scribes and Pharisees bring Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery for which Mosaic law prescribed stoning. Those men ask Jesus to judge the sinful woman in order “to test him” and impel him to take a false step. The scene is full with drama: the life of that person and also his own life depend on Jesus. Indeed, the hypocritical accusers pretend to entrust the judgement to him whereas it is actually he himself whom they wish to accuse and judge. Jesus, on the other hand, is “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): he can read every human heart, he wants to condemn the sin but save the sinner, and unmask hypocrisy. St John the Evangelist highlights one detail: while his accusers are insistently interrogating him, Jesus bends down and starts writing with his finger on the ground. St Augustine notes that this gesture portrays Christ as the divine legislator: in fact, God wrote the law with his finger on tablets of stone (cf. Commentary on John's Gospel, 33,5). Thus Jesus is the Legislator, he is Justice in person. And what is his sentence? “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”. These words are full of the disarming power of truth that pulls down the wall of hypocrisy and opens consciences to a greater justice, that of love, in which consists the fulfilment of every precept (cf. Rom 13:8-10). This is the justice that also saved Saul of Tarsus, transforming him into St Paul (cf. Phil 3:8-14).

When his accusers “went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest”, Jesus, absolving the woman of her sin, ushers her into a new life oriented to good. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again”. It is the same grace that was to make the Apostle say: “One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

Dear friends, let us learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbour. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin starting with our own! and indulgent with people. May the holy Mother of God, free from all sin, who is the mediatrix of grace for every repentant sinner, help us in this. 

During this time of Lent we are invited to look to others too with charity, which frees us from the vanity of possessing, from thinking that things are good if they are good for me.
(Pope Francis, Twitter, April 7, 2019)

For those preparing to be received into the Church this Easter: that they will remain faithful to Christ all the days of their life.
(Magnificat, Prayer of the Faithful, April 7, 2019)

No comments:

Post a Comment