V Sunday of Lent
7 April 2019
You might find this hard to believe but I am not a saint … I have my faults and I do not always get it right – I know that I give off an aura of sanctity but that’s just my cologne! Recently I was awed by a friend of mine … I had made a mistake and this person was so quick to forgive … there was no condemnation, no judgment… only mercy … I learned something from that experience.
These past few weekends in Lent we have heard stories/parables describing the extraordinary mercy of God the Father. Today is no different. The story itself is dramatic. The Pharisees are out to trap Jesus – they want to catch Him in a “misstep”. Fully aware of His message of mercy and His love for sinners they want Him to slip… For example, if He condemns Her according to the Law of Moses then His message of mercy contradicts the Law. But if He does not condemn her, then He is no observer of the Law and He contradicts His own message… thus He would be exposed as a fraud. His response to them is silence…The Pharisees are poised to attack… and Jesus just silently writes in the ground. Many scholars believe that He was writing their sins in the dirt. Yet, His silence is an invitation to self-reflection for both the woman and the Pharisees. And when He does speak, He does not speak only to the Pharisees but to the woman also… He treats them as equal human beings to whom words about sin can be addressed.
To the Pharisees: “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” To the woman: “Go and sin no more.” Both are invited to break with old ways and old habits of sin and judgment. This is a story of mercy.
This Gospel clearly teaches us about the nature of forgiveness … forgiveness is not to be equated with tolerance, it is so more than that… Jesus does not forgive evil but the individual person and as such offers the possibility of transformation. Jesus did not enter our world to condemn, nor did He enter our world to validate a way of life that is disordered, self-serving … Jesus enters our world to heal our inner wounds, to forgive us of our sins, and to transform us into His likeness.
And I think this is where we are invited to a little self-examination, self-reflection… to think a little differently about how we view or judge others, to think a little more about our own shortcomings … Lets face it, we all have sins, faults and failures … we have all placed condemnation and judgment on another human being in one way or another … and we have all been on the receiving end of it as well. Here we realize that God is the ultimate judge, we have no right to claim it … here we allow God to be God and what does God do? He is merciful… ought we not be the same?
Jesus, having entered our lives comes to heal, forgive and transform us from within. He invites us to be free … He invites us to break with former ways and enter into a new world of freedom. This is a freedom to be merciful … that is what my recent experience taught me … what it means to be merciful and God-like toward one another. And here, Jesus invites each of us to mercy … to receive forgiveness for our own sins and to extend that mercy toward one another.