5th Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 3, 2022
This Gospel always makes me ask several questions: Why did they bring the woman and not the man who had committed adultery? I wonder how many of those men who brought this woman to Jesus to be condemned had mistresses or had committed adultery themselves? Interesting that we never have the name of this woman. She was probably unknown, not famous, not rich, not an important person, not someone with influence or power. Always easier to judge and condemn those with no power. Even today, the poor tend to suffer more from the justice system than the rich.
Then I ask myself, how many stones am I carrying around to throw at others?
I also wonder if this story is in the Gospel of John because this was an issue being debated in the early Church. Judgement and condemnation versus mercy and forgiveness. What about in the Church today? Are there certain issues or people that we are more ready to judge and condemn.
Stones are hard. If I threw this at one of you it would really hurt and do damage. We do not throw a stone to help someone, we do it to hurt them.
These men bring this woman to Jesus not to help her repent and begin a new life. They only want to condemn and kill her. Their way of judgement leads only to death.
Jesus is doing something new, the way of mercy and forgiveness, his concern is that this woman repents and that she is able to begin a new life.
When they first come to Jesus with this woman caught in adultery, they present the law, that someone caught in adultery is to be stoned to death. Jesus takes a moment of silence before responding, writing something in the sand. Perhaps to get them all to stop and reflect for a moment. Mob rule rarely stops to reflect.
Then he says, “who among you who has not sinned should throw the first stone.” Jesus is pushing them to take their eyes off the woman they want to condemn and to look within themselves. To examine their own conscience. To recognize that they need mercy and forgiveness. They are more in need of conversion and change than the woman.
What if in our final judgement before God, we will be judged in the way that we judged others during our life? How would you judge others if you knew that would be how God judges you?
We begin the Mass with a penitential rite, we acknowledge our sins, Lord have mercy, Kyrie Eleison. To be aware of my own need for mercy and forgiveness.
We recognize our own need to change, not to give in to hatred and condemnation, not about changing everyone else, but to begin with myself. But, in the light of the mercy of God that allows me to begin something new and not remain dead in my sins and guilt.
This way of Jesus reflects what God says through the Prophet Isaiah, “I am doing something new.”
Jesus is doing something new. The way of mercy. A way that offers a new path forward, the possibility of new life.
The way of those men led only to death. The way of Jesus offers the opportunity for new life. Only forgiveness can lead to something new, new life rather than death.
Someone once described forgiveness this way. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.” We cannot change the past, but we can lead to a new future.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or acting as though nothing happened. Justice is still required and we need to work to bring about reconciliation and healing. But, forgiveness opens up a space for a new life, a new future.
Jesus wants to do something new. Look in our world today. Where is something new needed?
Places of war, Ukraine, Yemen. Something new is only possible if both sides are ready to forgive, if they remove hatred from their hearts, stop throwing stones and search for something new. Humanity continues to remain in our usual ways, spending more money on weapons. This will not bring about something new. It will just continue us on the same path leading to death.
The Indigenous Delegation was in Rome this past week. Reconciliation is a long time project in our country. It will require facing the truth of this past, including the history of residential schools. it will require us as Catholics to acknowledge the involvement of our church in this history.
Forgiveness will be necessary for something new to take place, but we have a deep responsibility to work for reconciliation and to support indigenous peoples of this land to be treated with dignity and to walk with them on the path to healing. We need to be on the side of Indigenous peoples in the future journey that we have together.
Jesus wants to do something new. In the Sacrament of Confession we do not look at the sins of others, we look at our own sins. Not to be judged and condemned, but to receive the forgiveness of Jesus. In this Sacrament we are sent out, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more.
Something new is possible in your life. Do not remain trapped in your past sins. The way of Jesus is not judgement and condemnation, it is the way of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus wants something new, wants us to have a new life.
Let us all throw away our stones. Let us embrace the way of Jesus, mercy and forgiveness.
This is the only way to create something new in our world and in our lives.