5th Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2016
A woman is caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). The Pharisees bring this unfortunate woman forward: the penalty for what she has done is stoning, and they are ready to let her have it. But first, they want to use this situation to “test” Jesus. Will he uphold the law? Will he be merciful? Notice that Jesus doesn’t answer them right away; at first he simply ignores them. The Lord will sometimes appear not to hear us too … but he is waiting … waiting … waiting for the right moment, or perhaps, the right request; but he always listens.
Perhaps you have seen the old Cecile B. Demille silent movie that reenacts this scene: as Jesus writes on the ground in silence, he is actually writing the sins down of those around this woman who are condemning her. As these accusers begin to recognize their own sins, one by one, they start to drift away, beginning with the oldest, for the oldest have had the most time to commit sin. Jesus promises us that every sin confessed and repented in this life will never be made public in the next! That’s why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is such a great deal: it brings inner healing in this life and gets us off the hook in the next.
I had a niece who died of a drug overdose a number of years ago now. She spent most of her teenage years at the Hillcrest juvenile detention center here in Salem. Right from birth (she was adopted), she began to exhibit a number of behavioral issues that only seemed to get worse over time. In her last couple of years of life, we became aware that she had fetal alcohol syndrome, which was confirmed when she contacted her birth mother, who admitted that she drank heavily during the time she was carrying my niece.
I mention this because a great deal of her odd behavior traits can be explained by this, and no one was aware of it at the time. This is why Our Lord taught us that we are not the final judge of a person’s character. He is. I can’t help thinking about how many other mitigating circumstances are out there for other issues you and I face, biological and other issues we are not even aware of.
Neither the woman caught in adultery, nor any of us who have sinned are completely off the hook. Jesus does not deny her sins, and no matter what our issues, there is always some part of us that can be converted, can turn to the Lord and away from wrong-doing. Jesus does not deny the woman‘s sin – he tells her to turn away from it and forgives her. Fortunately for us, Jesus knows that we are made of clay, and he also knows what our issues are. Perhaps there are sinners in your own life with hidden issues that call for compassion rather than condemnation.