In His Mercy
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Fr Ken Barker – DOJ Canberra
This gospel shows us the exquisite mercy of Jesus. Due to the harsh requirements of the Mosaic Law, the woman dragged before him was meant to be stoned to death for committing adultery. Her accusers were testing Jesus. He simply began writing on the ground – maybe their sins! In any case he simply says, “Let the man who is without sin cast the first stone”. He exposed their hypocrisy. They disappeared. Then when alone with the woman he asks her “Has no one condemned you?” “no one sir,” she answers. Then he says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go sin no more”.
Firstly, Jesus disarms the accusing voices. Maybe when we have sinned we feel those voices within us belittling us with shame and condemning us. These voices are from the evil one, not from God. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sin but does not condemn us. Rather we are called to repentance, a decision to turn back to the Lord and “go, sin no more”. We need to let Jesus disarm the accusing voices within us that discourage and demean us.
Secondly, Jesus meets the woman with great compassion. He ministers acceptance to her as a person, even though she obviously has sinned. This frees her to receive his mercy and change her life. What a beautiful gift we have in the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord! Lent is a time when we throw ourselves in all our sinfulness upon the mercy of the Lord. The sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful means of encountering his touch of compassion and receiving the forgiveness that sets us free. Remember there is no condemnation in the heart of the Lord. He welcomes the sinner with kindness and love, embracing us with understanding and mercy.
Questions for discussion
- Have you at times experienced self-condemnation? What have you found helpful to overcome these destructive feelings?
- What do you think is he main difference between healthy guilt and toxic shameful guilt?
- What strikes you most about the attitude of Jesus towards this woman?
- What has been your experience of the sacrament of Reconciliation? Have there been positive experiences? Negative experiences? Do you value the sacrament?
1st Reading: Isaiah 43.16-21
2nd Reading: Philippians 3.8-14
Gospel: John 8.1-11