Go And Sin No More!
Fifth Sunday of Lent (C) | Fr Benedict Jonak exhorts us to hope in the power of grace and God’s mercy to renew our lives and render transformative justice.
Today’s Gospel story is simply captivating, although Jesus speaks few words. He writes in the sand with his finger – a gesture which is unexplained, and uncommented by the evangelist. It all builds up the tension, which is already huge from the very first moment the woman is brought to Jesus, as the crowd stands in silent expectation of a swift judgment. To be more precise: judgment had already been made. The woman was caught in the act, and the Law prescribes, that she be stoned to death.
But Christ has not been born to bring death but life. He has become one of us to reveal God to us, but also to teach us how to live out our human lives. And today his teaching is twofold.
Firstly, Jesus shows us, that there is no judgment without mercy. Mercy is not an optional part of justice, rather it is its central part. A judgment which does not consider mercy is not just. This Christian principle has actually made its way to most of the European justice systems, whereby a sentence is not simply an act of punishment, but also a ways of rehabilitating the culprit, a means of restoring him or her into society. Ideally it should be, if you like, a means of bringing the culprit back to life. It is, of course, a huge challenge not to think about vengeance when we are hurt. But before we throw a stone to condemn someone unconditionally we need to pause – even the worst criminals deserve true justice, the kind of justice which brings them back to life.
It is easier said than done, for it takes two to tango. The real question, therefore, which is asked of me and you, is: are we are willing to give people another chance? Not just once or twice, but seventy seven times. It takes a lot of courage and faith to base justice on mercy and not on vengeance, because we might be setting ourselves up for another disappointment.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus indicates that we can break out of the vicious circle of sin. He tells the woman: “Go and sin no more.”
It is something, which we ought to consider seriously, especially, perhaps, when we prepare ourselves for the Easter confession. Do I really believe, that I can break away from my sins? Why do I go to confession? Of course, it is always such a great and liberating experience to know that my sins are forgiven. But confession should be more to me than a therapeutic exercise. It should be a way of thinking about my future, whereby I take real steps to avoid what harms me. And it all starts with what I actually believe. Do I believe that sin is no longer a necessary part of my life after baptism? Do I believe that I have been given sufficient grace? Do I believe that Christ lives in me and that he “by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”?
Christ has conquered sin and death and we are united to him. I hope that the sure faith, that we are part of his body, and that nothing is able to separate us from his love, will give us courage and joy, and strengthen us. May it give us the power to show mercy and give life. May it spur us on to renew our lives, so that he may draw us ever more towards himself, until we reach our perfection through him, and with him and in him.
Readings: Isa 43:16-21 | Phil 3:8-14 | John 8:1-11
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.