The Fifth Sunday of Lent 2016
Do we dare to stand before Jesus and bare our sinfulness? This is the gospel message today, (John 8:1-11). The adulterous woman is circled with blame and shame. The scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus carrying with them stones to through at her to kill her. Jesus quietly stoops to the ground and writes in the sand. He turns the blame on them. His authority compels them to stop. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The mercy of God is not written in the sand for us but in our hearts. We wait for God’s love and miraculous presence to set us free. Salvation is free. We do not earn our place in God’s love. Salvation is pure gift. We cannot put obstacles in the way of other people’s conversion or burden them with the stones of our blame. We do not shame people into accepting the healing presence of Jesus.
I suspect that if I asked all of you to name your sin, most of you would think that your sin is a sexual sin. The greater sins are those that shred the reputations of others or to blame them for problems we do not want to face. The greater sins, as we hear in Matthew 25, are those of resistance toward people who are hungry, naked and in prison. Our sexual sins are not the greatest sins even though we have been taught to live in shame about our bodies and our lives.
I wonder if this Year of Mercy has made a difference in your life? I wonder if you have the courage to face Jesus as the adulterous woman did? I wonder where you find yourself in this story? Are you standing in the way of Jesus’ love for you? Is it easier to condemn others than to face the beauty and redeeming love of Jesus’ face?
These are questions for you to consider in this Lenten season. I lay awake at night so often unsure that all of you have a personal relationship with Jesus. It is easier to follow the rules of the Church like the scribes and Pharisees than it is to fully believe that Jesus is in your heart and walks with you in your sin.
I also fret about how we label people who feel unworthy of mercy or who have been so abused and put down in life that they cannot rise to the wondrous love of Jesus’ presence. They would rather continue to put themselves down because that is what the Church does to sinners. I know so many people who cannot look Jesus in the eyes because of how other people continue to shame them.
I am sure many of you remember Pope Francis’ comment on the plane going back to Rome a couple of years ago when he was asked about homosexual people. He said, “Who am I to judge?” That question comes from this gospel text. As we stand in the circle to blame other people for their sin, Jesus still frees the sinner. He says to the woman and us to go and sin no more. I pray that in this Lenten season, we may all come to know and understand the freedom that Jesus offers us, the love that sets all hearts free. Our salvation rests on receiving this love and living blamelessly in our world.
Next Sunday March 20 we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. This begins Holy Week. I cannot emphasize enough of the importance of the liturgies of Holy Week. I realize it is also spring break for many schools. However, our faith is so much more important. These liturgies mark the highest holy days of our faith in the Church. They capture the meaning of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Please mark your calendars for the Triduum, which means the three liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I will write more about these liturgies in next week’s bulletin. The schedule is below.
Blessings in this Lenten journey,