Homily – April 3, 2022

V Sunday of Lent
Year C

The other day I saw a picture on the internet of a Russian missile that landed in the kitchen of a Ukrainian family. The family were all present… praying the rosary … The missile never detonated. You might say – “wow, how lucky they were…” Or maybe you might say that they had hope, they had faith … that God would come to their aid in their greatest time of need. They didn’t just sit there and accept their fate – they placed themselves in the hands of God … they had hope.

Imagine this scene as described in John’s Gospel … I don’t doubt that this woman struggled to get free, she probably tried to run away from them … she knew her fate – she was fighting to preserve her life … might we dare to say that even in this, her darkest hour, she had hope? What were the odds … in their own blindness and hatred for Jesus – they bring her to Him. Without realizing it … He is the answer to her prayer – He is the source of her hope … He is going to save her life. After this encounter she will never be the same…

Notice that the encounter with Jesus in this scene effects both the woman and her accusers. Tradition holds that He was writing their sins in the sand and then speaks to them – His actions here move them to walk away … perhaps not changing their disposition but certainly changes the climate of the situation. Next he turns to her – “has no one condemned you?” … and it’s the final words here that make her hope come to life – “Go… and from now on do not sin.” To the Pharisees his words are condemning … to her they are life-giving; life-changing. His words of acquittal become the beginning of something new.

Popular interpretations of this passage equate Jesus’ leniency with the woman as tolerance toward sins of a sexual nature. Lets be clear – sin is sin. Human sexuality is unique and in the proper context is unifying, dignified, and sacred. He does not condemn her but offers her a chance to change, to move on from an undignified life to something new … Speaking to both parties, He treats them both as equals, He addresses their sins and only she embraces a new life – a life lived not as a condemned woman, a woman destined for death … but free – defined not by her sins rather by her human dignity. He not only is the answer to her hope, He gives her hope…

Have you ever had to fight for life? Have you ever been in a position were all you had to hold on to was the hope that maybe this will somehow get better? I might dare say since we all have lived this pandemic that we all have had this experience in one way or another … that feeling that of a lost hope, that death is just around the corner … Maybe that is what was going through the minds of that family in Ukraine as a missile plummeted into their kitchen … what else could they do but pray? It’s all they had to grasp. That family will never be the same.

Do you ever wonder why we do what we do during Lent, or in the practices of our faith in general? Because of hope … The hope of Lent is the hope of something new, of resurrection, restoration, transformation – that God will change us in some way for the better … it changes how we embrace suffering, how we interpret relationships, difficulties, it does not lengthen life nor delay death … it frees us to live because it is grounded in an encounter and a friendship with the Jesus Christ. Hope is the “why” of Lent and of our faith … the “what” is up to you … will you walk away like the Pharisees in the Gospel … or will it change you? Will it start something new in your heart and in your faith?

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