Readings for April 7, 2019
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Year C Readings
This week’s gospel tells of yet another humiliating loss for Jesus’ foes, and another radical forgiveness for those he loved. When the religious leaders come to Jesus, they are hoping to entrap him into criticizing the law that Moses gave them to stone a woman who commits adultery. Rather than, as the religious leaders expected, offering rebuke and criticism of the law, Jesus quietly confronts the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in their condemnation of the woman caught in the act of adultery.
“Let the one among you who is without sin throw the first stone.” As he says this, Jesus is said to be writing in the sand. The Bible does not tell us what Jesus writes, but the Hebrew translation of the word “write” seems to coincide with “making an account.” With that, there are theories that what Jesus was writing in the sand was an account of the sins of those who wished to stone the woman. The leaders could not give answer to Jesus without bearing the shame of their own sins, so they put down their stones and walked away. They walked away to avoid their own shame but did not offer the woman forgiveness. Only Jesus offers her forgiveness. Importantly, however, I am called to offer the forgiveness Jesus modeled, even to those who have done me harm or sinned against the law, and to recognize that it is not my place to condemn or begrudge others.
Once they walked away, Jesus addressed the woman. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” He forgives without rebuke and without conditions. But while he freely and lovingly forgives, Jesus does not do so without acknowledgement of the sin and a command to move forward. “Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.”
What Jesus offers is what Isaiah prophesied and what St. Paul taught the Philippians. In turning away from sin God tells me, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” Through his saving grace and unending love, Jesus gives me the opportunity to become something–someone–new. Everything old in comparison to new life in Christ is a loss. The only gains worth attaining is to live in holiness now so that I can live in Christ’s love for eternity. Jesus gives me this chance through his loving sacrifice. Jesus breaks the chains and sets me free.
Sometimes, however, whether in stubborn disobedience or in unwitting habit, I pick up the chains and wrap them back around myself like an old, tattered blanket, mistakenly considering what is familiar as what is comfortable. However, I cannot seek forgiveness, from man or from God, and simply return to my old ways. Though I rightly confess my sins and am unreservedly forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice, I am not yet made perfect. To maintain my freedom, I need to choose to let go of the chains that bind me to my sinful past. Newly created, I must instead strive to sin no more. Compelled to move forward, “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” The calling is to “Be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That is the singular goal I need to spend the rest of my life pursuing; that is the upward calling of God through Christ.
“For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21) May I drink of all You have given to me, Almighty God and Father! All glory and honor and praise to our God and Father, through Jesus Christ our savior. Amen