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03/13/16 Fifth Sunday of Lent - Deacon Ron

Homily Summary for Fifth Sunday of Lent

Deacon Landry

Today's gospel is a poignant reminder of what a celebration Lent itself is. Let's begin with who's on trial; the woman caught in adultery. Mosaic Law stipulates clearly that the punishment for this crime is that the she be stoned to death. Nothing to celebrate there.

And it doesn't take a learned theologian to discern that Jesus Christ is also on trial. The religious authorities have set a most cunning trap for our Savior. They deceitfully appeal to him for guidance, even calling him Master, or Teacher. We are told "...she was taken in the act...", so there is absolutely no question of her guilt. Should Jesus comply with the precepts of Mosaic Law, he judges that the woman be sentenced to death by stoning. However, the Romans did not give the Jews the right to administer the death penalty. Jesus must maintain Mosaic Law and be in conflict with the Roman government, or conform to Roman law and thus defy Mosaic Law.

And the situation is even more complex. If Jesus should exonerate the adulteress, and pronounce that the sentence should not be implemented (which the scribes and Pharisees were counting on), they could accuse Jesus of being an enemy of the law of Moses, and thereby confirm the opinion his enemies were so keen to circulate, that Jesus came to destroy the law and the prophets. And considering the way Jesus socialized with sinners, the case could certainly be made that he approved of sinfulness.  He scribes and Pharisees had Jesus right where they wanted him; their ploy was well-played.

Much has been made of what happens next. In the only account of Jesus writing in all of Sacred Scripture, our Lord "...bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger." Some scholars submit that by that very act, Jesus seems to place himself above a response and doesn't take the bait of the trap they have set. According to Mosaic Law, it is the men who sought to bring the adulteress to justice that should throw the first stone. Jesus rises from whatever he has written and declares, "Let the one among you who is without sin  be the first to throw a stone at her."  End of discussion.

Again Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one. Note well that the elders, those perceived to be wisest—or is it that they would have had the most time to sin?—were the first to leave. In this remarkable event we witness our Savior Jesus Christ at work doing what he came to be among us to do, to bring sinners to repentance; not to devastate them, but to save them. And our Savior not only brought the accused to repentance, by showing her his mercy, but the prosecutors too, by showing them their sins.

Lent is indeed a celebration because at the same time that we are reminded of our sinfulness and our need for repentance, we are also dramatically reminded of God's desire to forgive us, his unconditional love and mercy, and his eagerness to encourage us to improve.

There is so much to be learned from today's gospel. Whenever we judge others, we need to look honestly and humbly at ourselves, and be more concerned about our own sin than that of  others. We need to be mindful that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. None of us is in a position to judge others. And last, but certainly not least, we can hate the sin but must love the sinner.

As we reflect upon who and what Jesus Christ is, and about the lessons to be learned from his ministry, what an awesome irony it is that he who was without sin has the greatest compassion towards sinners. 

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