Gospel Reflection: Fifth Sunday of Lent
Malvern Minute

 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 13, 2016

Glory and praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart;

for I am gracious and merciful.

   Glory and praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ

 

The Gospel of Saint John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.   Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.  But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.  So he was left alone with the woman before him.  Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

REFLECTION

We are now only one week from the beginning of Holy Week and our Holy Church provides from Saint John’s Gospel a powerful story concerning the incredible mercy and forgiveness of God.  This Gospel story along with last week’s parable of the Prodigal Son stresses that God’s love and mercy for His children far exceeds the way the human community treats one another — For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus visiting the Mount of Olives the place where Palm Sunday’s procession begins — the first of the actions of Jesus surrendering himself to his Passion and Death.  It is with this reference that the Gospel immediately sets up a significant contrast between how far Christ is willing to go to forgive us compared to the Letter-of-the-Law approach of the Pharisees and scribes in the Gospel.

The religious leaders bring before Jesus a woman caught in adultery.  One must conclude that it is part of their judgmental attitude that they bring the woman forward but not the man.  In a further revelation of their character, they sarcastically address Jesus as teacher, and then go on to instruct God’s Son to what Moses taught.  They fail to recognize that Jesus is the Word of God, the originator of the Law of God that was entrusted to Moses in symbolic form as the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Their own sins and their determination to test him distort their vision as to who it is that they stand before.  The Talmud, the highly esteemed instruction of rabbis teaches that every creature must recognize with reverence that they stand before God!

The woman fully humiliated is forced to stand in the middle of the circle of accusers.  I am sure the human heart of Jesus must’ve recalled how the people of Nazareth might have treated his mother Mary who was found to be with child outside of marriage. Now Jesus comes to the aid of this woman as Joseph, his foster father did for Mary. But more so, Jesus as God comes to the aid of all of us caught in sin!   Humanity is the adulterous woman in dire need of the salvation of God.

Long standing tradition interprets Jesus writing on the ground as listing the sins of those around the woman.   Scripture is very clear that no one but God has the right to judge another because only God has a pure enough heart to judge without prejudice — the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

Again, Jesus writes and the accusers leave one by one.  Now, only Jesus and the woman remain.  Even without her admission of guilt, or her request for forgiveness – like the father in the Prodigal Son story – Jesus says: Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.  This is the divine intension of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – divine forgiveness and exhortation to sin no more!

Two weeks in a row, we have heard the Gospel proclaim the incredible love and mercy of God.  Why do we doubt his love?  The arms of the Savior are open to everyone who desires the forgiveness of God!  Let us not be forced to go before the Lord; let us voluntarily and trustingly approach the Lord of Mercy in the Sacrament of Penance.

WE BELIEVE, AND THEREFORE SPEAK (2 Corinthians 4:13)

REJOICE & WITNESS

Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our website for details: MalvernRetreat.com

 

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