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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent -The Day Misery and Mercy Meet

The Fifth Sunday Of Lent
 The Day Misery and Mercy met Face to Face
John 8:1-11


In today’s Gospel, The Adulterous Woman, the main objective of the Pharisees is, trap two people, “kill two birds with one stone”; one Jesus, the other a woman caught in adultery. The question, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” (John 8:3-4) The dilemma, if Jesus freed her he would be contradicting the Mosaic Law, if he condemned her he would undermine his own message of compassion. Planning to “test” Jesus and catch him in a contradiction, “that they might have some charge to bring against him,” the Rabbis await Jesus’ answer. A response most certainly not expected.

Turning the tables back on the Pharisees, Jesus responds, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Forced to publicly admit their hypocrisy of self-righteousness, by being reduced to silence, “they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” (John 8:9)

This woman had clearly sinned, her sin, my sins, are obvious and undeniable. When I have sinned, how do I react when I face Jesus, the one who is truly righteous? Like the scribes and Pharisees with self-righteousness or as the woman who stays to listen in humility to Christ’s sentence?

The woman remains alone with Jesus who then asks, “Has no one condemned you?” She answers, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus responds, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10-11)

Jesus is sinless, truly righteous, the only one worthy to impart judgment, but “we should never act in such a way in view of God’s mercy that we forget about his justice; nor should we attend to his justice forgetting about his mercy.” (Fray Luis de Granada, Life of Jesus, 13)

As the Gospel ends, Jesus sends the woman away with this recommendation: “go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:10-11) Saint Augustine says of this moment between Jesus and the adulterous woman that the Lord condemned the sin not the sinner and misery and mercy met face to face.

How merciful and just you are oh Lord.
We are made for you
and nothing less will satisfy us.

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Vasiliy Polenov

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