Sunday, April 3, 2022: Fifth Sunday of Lent
Gospel: 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.”
In this Gospel selection from John on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Jesus has returned to the temple where crowds have gathered and he is teaching them. There is therefore an audience for what the scribes and Pharisees are about to do. They are going to test Jesus in the hope he will give them evidence on which they can bring a charge against him. Jesus and his growing number of followers are a threat to those in power and they want to end that threat. Claiming that the Torah commands the woman caught in adultery to be punished by stoning, the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus to comment on that punishment. But he puts the burden on them by asking who is the sinless one who will begin the stoning. Is there one among them pure enough to inflict this punishment? Jesus does not look at them while waiting for an answer. He doesn’t stare them down or watch them leave. His words alone are enough. Not one of them picks up a stone, but rather they all turn and leave.
In each of the Gospels, we read the words of Jesus and hear how he acts towards others. Those words and actions always model for us love and forgiveness. In this Gospel passage, he tells the woman that he does not condemn her. That she is to go and not sin any more. All is forgiven. We too are not sin free, but we are always forgiven, always loved by God. Not sinning is a difficult mandate to follow. But when we stumble, and when we fall, God’s loving embrace is there to lift us up again.
We not only receive forgiveness from God but we are to forgive others as well. We’re slowly emerging from a very difficult time in our nation’s history. A time that has been difficult in many ways and has resulted in divisions within families and among friends. Holding grudges is sinful. Mending them is practicing forgiveness. In some situations, it may only be possible to forgive in your heart right now. So be it. We have been created in the image of God. What is inside our hearts shows through in how we act with others. Let us make a special effort this week to image the love and forgiveness of God to all.