5TH SUNDAY OF LENT: JOHN 8: 1-11
The central theme of all three readings is about God’s mercy and forgiveness to each of us. The readings remind us that we should not be self-righteous and condemn the lives of others. The first reading explains how a merciful God forgives the sins of His chosen people and leads them back from the Babylonian exile. It reminds us that we, too, are forgiven and we are saved from our own sinfulness. In the second reading, St. Paul presents himself as a forgiven sinner, who has been completely transformed by his faith in Jesus. In today’s gospel, Jesus shows infinite mercy and compassion to the sinful woman.
When the scribes and Pharisees brought an adulterous woman and explained her sinful actions to Jesus, Jesus was very silent. Without any reply, Jesus began to write on the ground and then to erase what Jesus wrote. Jesus did not ask anything about her past. This does not mean that Jesus does not remember the past but Jesus likes to forget the past.
Instead of judging the adulterous women, Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Let the one among you, who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was an examination of conscience for them. And in response, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Today, we all need our own examination of conscience. Let us reflect: “Do we judge and condemn others without knowing the real reasons for their actions?” Instead of condemning the woman, Jesus’ kind and merciful words and action healed her inner wounds. We, too, are called to show this merciful love and forgiveness to our brothers and sisters.
Let me share with you a meaningful story: Two friends were walking on the beach and on their journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in his face. The one who received the slap was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN MY FACE. They kept on walking on the shore of the sea and decided to take a bath in the seawater. Suddenly the person, who received the slap, started drowning in the water but his friend jumped in the water and saved his friend. After he recovered from the sea, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE: The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you wrote on a stone, why?” The other friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write in the sand where the wind of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must write it in the stone where no wind can ever erase it.” The Moral message of the story is – if someone did something bad in our lives, intentionally or unintentionally, let us try to forget and forgive, but never forget the good they did for us!
When we show forgiveness and mercy to others, God will show the same forgiveness and mercy in return to us! The story of the adulterous woman, to whom Jesus showed mercy and forgiveness, are good examples to each of us concerning how we want to practice forgiveness and mercy in our lives.
At the end of the gospel story, Jesus said to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on do not sin anymore.” This does not mean that she can continue to sin but Jesus challenged her. This was a chance for her to begin a new life. Jesus opened the door for her to a new way of life. But the decision is up to her to walk in the new way of life or to live her old way of a sinful life. God does not force us but God challenges us. For her, this was a moment of practicing the sacrament of reconciliation. We all need to make sacraments of reconciliation. “Do not sin any more” was Jesus’ big penance for her and for each of us!
The sacrament of reconciliation is like a narrow bridge; we are crossing over this bridge to a new road, making new steps, beginning new journeys, and starting new lives. A Chinese philosopher once said: “Whenever we make mistakes, whenever we fall, each time we must rise up; this is what forms the greatness of the person.”