Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year C - 13th March, 2016

What Marvels The Lord Works

Last  Sunday  Jesus,  in  the  Gospel  story  of the  prodigal son,  highlighted two  different attitudes   to   the    mercy    of    God.    This Sunday, however, it is not in a parable but a    real    incident   in    which    scribes   and Pharisees,   with   their   narrow   view   of the mercy  of God,  set a trap for Jesus hoping to discredit him in the eyes of the people.

 

If Jesus absolves this woman caught in the act of sinning, he will be accused of showing contempt  for  the  Law  of  Moses;  if,  on  the other hand, he condemns her, that is an end to his reputation for mercy towards sinners.

 

For the Pharisees, the scriptures are being read with a view to making  them powerful as judges  and experts  in the Law. For Jesus,  the scriptures are to be read as a way to understand the overwhelming mercy  of God.

 

Jesus  was well aware  of the intended  trap.  He silenced the accusers without contradicting the Law or condoning  the sin. So  he challenged anyone  who  was  without sin  to  throw  the first stone. No one volunteered. One by one they  slunk  away.  And, with that, the schemes of  Jesus' enemies are brought to nothing.

 

Jesus  then said to the woman,  "Has  no one condemned  you?"   "No  one,  sir,"  she  re- plied. He said, "Neither  do I condemn  you." She   was   forgiven.    She   could   face   the future.  It  is  the  same  with  us.  When  our sins  are  forgiven   they  are  removed   from our conscience. We are free of them, free to shape the present and prepare for the future.

 

We  must  not  draw  the  wrong  conclusion. When Jesus tells the woman, "I don't condemn you,"  he's  not  saying,  "Don't  worry,  it's  all right." He's not saying that sin doesn't matter, that adultery is no big deal.   He is asking her to stop what she has  been doing, and change her  ways..  He doesn't  ignore  the  disorder  in her life. He presents her with a warning and a choice: you can go back to your old ways, or you can make a fresh start.

 

It  must  have  seemed  like  a dream  to  her. One   minute    she   was   a   captive    of  the Scribes    and   Pharisees,  facing   death   by stoning, and the next minute  she was being offered  her freedom by Jesus.

 

In  highlighting  the  hypocrisy  of  the  Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus calls them to repentance. Highlighting  God’s  love  and  forgiveness  for her, he calls the woman and us to a new life. Fully liberated, she would exclaim to others:  ‘What  marvels  the Lord  has worked  for me! Indeed I am glad’. Today we rejoice with her.

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, C.M.