This is the fifth week of Lent. In this week’s readings, we see a powerful connection between the first and the Gospel reading. The first reading documents that God opened the sea and a path through the mighty waters, in which an entire army drowned. This, of course, is the story of the parting of the Red Sea, and describes how Pharaoh’s entire army drowned while they were in angry pursuit of Moses and his people. However, God tells the people to forget the events of the past and acknowledge that He is doing something new. We are also on the brink of something new. A new path in the desert will open up in which the Lord our God will put springs of living waters for his people to drink, the people He formed for His own, that they may always praise Him.
The second reading, from the Book of Philippians, also remarks upon the pursuit of the hope of a new life, looking forward to what lies ahead, and forgetting what lies behind. Saint Paul relates that all he desires is to gain Christ and be found in Him; yet, he does not have any righteousness himself, only that which comes through faith in Christ. Paul acknowledges how the merciful Lord has unconditionally pardoned his sins. Paul regards himself as having “been taken possession of by Christ Jesus,” and as constantly striving to be ever more conformed to the pattern set by Christ.
In the Gospel we have one of the most beautiful and powerful parables of the Gospel. The Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman before the crowd and made her stand in the middle while everyone gathered around her, to accuse her in front of Christ. No one was there to support her; she was totally helpless and defenseless. If you remember the readings of the past few weeks, they clearly expose the hypocrisy of the self-righteous people—the Scribes and Pharisees—who considered themselves better than others. When Jesus refused to judge the woman, they accused Him of blasphemy, and of being a friend of sinners and tax-collectors. Jesus maintained a moment of silence, giving them time to ponder over the situation, and then said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The Scribes and Pharisees walked away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Here we see that Jesus opened up a path of love in spite of the condemning attitude of the crowd who had ganged up against the woman. Jesus not only defended her but cleared a path through hatred, converting it instead into love for everyone involved. This is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible because of the way Christ converted hatred into love, sin into forgiveness, slavery to guilt, into freedom from sin.
The Gospel reveals the inexhaustible mercy Jesus gives repentant sinners. In addition, by making sinlessness the condition for throwing the first stone, Jesus forces the accusers to consider their own lives before they condemned another. Thus, Jesus grants a change of heart to the accusers, and mercy and pardon to the sinful woman. In our own lives, we bear witness to the Justice of God by confessing our sinfulness and determining to avoid sin, and we bear witness to God’s Mercy by accepting God’s forgiveness as well as by forgiving one another.
We need to learn to hate the sin, but not the sinner. We have no right to judge others because no one is perfect but God alone. Moreover, we often commit the very faults we condemn. We are often partial and prejudiced in our judgment, but we do not know the circumstances which have led the other person to sin. Hence, let us leave judgment to our merciful God who knows everything, including the depths of our hearts. We should show mercy and compassion to those who sin because we ourselves are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. In this season of Lent, let us heed God’s call to a deeper conversion of mind and heart; let us learn to love and forgive one another just as God loves and forgives us.
We have several activities scheduled in the parish this coming week, including our parish mission, from Monday, April 8th to Wednesday, April 10th. The Reverend Jack Conley will speak at 8:45 am, following the morning Mass and also at 6:30 pm those three days. We will conclude the parish mission on Wednesday with a penance service at 7:00 p.m. We will have several priests on hand to hear confessions. Please see the bulletin or call the parish office for more information. The Stations of the Cross will be led by the students of Santa Sophia Academy on Thursday, at 2:15 pm, and also held on Friday at 7:00 pm for the parish community. Please join us and spend some time with the suffering Jesus. Participating in the Stations of the Cross is a powerful form of meditation and reflection on the suffering of Jesus. Jesus suffered for us, for you and me; He suffered because he loves us.