Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year C. 07-04-2019 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm: Psalm 126
Second Reading: Philippians 3:8-14
Gospel: John 8:1-11
During the year of Consecrated Life inaugurated by the Holy Father Pope Francis that ran from November 30, 2014 to February 2, 2016, we were called to do three things. Pope Francis called all consecrated religious and indeed all of Christ’s faithful to look to the past with gratitude, for “to tell our story is to praise God and to thank Him for all His gifts.” It is when we look back at our sacred history that we discover the presence and action of God in our lives. Such gratitude leads us to live in the present moment with passion and joy, knowing that God is with us on our journey. Looking back with gratitude and living the present with passion means we will be full of hope for the future, knowing by faith that “nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37).” Since the past is what we cannot change, the only appropriate response to it is to be grateful that we survived it no matter how tough it was. So even in today’s first reading the Lord tells His people through His prophet Isaiah not to dwell on their unfortunate past, wailing and lamenting over their sufferings in the lands of Egypt and Babylon where they were in slavery and exile. But instead, with joy they should look to the future with hope because He is going to do a new thing in their lives and resettle them back to their own country. And this is a foreshadowing of the greater salvation the Lord shall accomplish in Christ to set His people free not just from physical slavery but from the spiritual slavery of sin as we see in the gospel reading where He sets the adulteress free. This is a fitting point of reflection for us on this last Sunday of Lent as we look forward to beginning the Holy Week next Sunday. As we approach the Holy Week, we must endeavor to keep ourselves holy in mind and body so that Christ can set us free at His resurrection.
For us to be discharged and acquitted, we must approach the court of Christ the just judge so that He can set us free. And Christ says, ‘so if the Son of man sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).’ We approach His court willingly when we come to Him in the sacrament of reconciliation to receive forgiveness, mercy and absolution from our sins. Today the people bring before Him the woman caught in adultery which according to one of the 613 precepts of the Mosaic Law, she should be stoned to death. Clearly she is found guilty but the master of the Law who came to teach us the right observance of the law discharged and acquitted her. This action for some early Christians was upsetting and they even wished the evangelist John had never written this passage. Because in their minds, the narration portrays Jesus as being soft on sin. Some of us even here today think like this too, but the truth is that the master did not applaud the woman for committing adultery. He didn’t say ‘go and continue with your sin.’ He does not approve of sin because sin harms our relationship with God. That is why when all the men had left, He said to her, “Go, but do not sin again.”
The scribes and the Pharisees wanted to use her as a pawn to get an opportunity to attack Jesus, and in the end destroy the lives of two people; the woman and Jesus. However Christ being God, knew their game and reaffirmed His mission of coming not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfil them through the love of God and love of neighbour as He taught in Mark 12:30-31. He wanted them to know that they were not fulfilling the law by hating. How could this be the way of the Lord if God is love? That is why Jesus came to bring love and mercy to the world, to heal us so that we will know that hatred should have no place in our lives as Children of God.
Today, many of us will be quick to say the scribes and the Pharisees in the gospel are evil people. But there are some among us who like to keep stones handy, just in case someone is accused and we begin to throw stones at them immediately even without knowing the truth of the allegation. This is what we do today uncharitably on social media where verdicts are passed on people on the social media even before they head to the law courts. Popular opinion is often times what holds sway. So in the eyes of the masses, this woman was a sinner to be condemned but in the eyes of Christ she was a person to be pardoned and given another chance to do better.
As a child of God do you take delight in using others as means to forward your own agenda, career, position in the society? Do you find pleasure in seeking out and publicising the sins and mistakes of others? Are you the one who gossips about people’s misdeeds, judging them instead of calling them to order through fraternal correction? Do you lust for pay-back revenge at the slightest provocation rather than in the spirit of forgiveness give peace a chance? Given what the master teaches us today, do you seek condemnation rather than rehabilitation of those in the wrong? Then you are the scribes and Pharisees throwing stones. In the end all of them left without stoning the woman because they were all sinners like her except Christ the innocent one who remained. Often times it is the guilty who are first to condemn others. We all are sinners before God, and when we come before Him in the sacrament of forgiveness, He sees us as people who need Divine Mercy and He shows us mercy because He is concerned about what our sins do to us. The only thing He asks of us is to extend this mercy to others too. And to do this, we must stop judging so that we don’t throw stones, and we must stop using people for our selfish ends so that we don’t set traps for them. Instead we must begin to defend the poor, the vulnerable and sinful by picking them up where they are so that they can experience the love and mercy of Christ through us.
May the Lord help us to abandon our past sinful ways and embrace the new way of life of His mercy, and share same with others. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.