Liturgical Year C

Fifth Sunday of Lent; Don’t be used

In every culture and in every time, intimacy and sexual relations have always been big issues and often sources of fear, shame, contempt and sin. In our modern western world, even more. Such topics as gay marriage, contraception and paedophilia provide issues with which the media constantly bombard the Catholic Church.

But let’s turn to today’s Gospel. Once again, its theme is very contemporary, because the whole story is provoked by an illicit sexual adventure. One of the possible titles for my homily today could be “Let’s talk about sex,” but even if I’d attract more readers focusing just on the sexual part of the story, I’d miss the point, just like the people who bring the women to Jesus. The expression “Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery” shows us that somebody saw this woman making love with a man who wasn’t her husband. We don’t know whether she was a prostitute or whether she was just having an affair with somebody. The punishment for her would be the same in either case: death. It is interesting that the same punishment wasn’t required for the man involved in same crime. And it’s important also to notice that all those who accused this woman were all men, too.

Like the gospel about two sons which we heard last Sunday, this story is one of the best proofs of God’s grace and love. But there is a difference, too. This time, it’s not just nice story; this time, it’s Jesus himself who shows divine love and mercy.

The truth is, no one knows, as an absolute certainty, what Jesus wrote on the ground.  Judging by the context (Moses and the Law that was written), the wording, the accusatory nature, and the fact that the only other place in Holy Scripture where we see the illustration of the finger of God writing is in the writing of the law. This strongly implies that Jesus was writing the commandments of God. One of these is the famous number 6: You must not commit adultery. Jesus is perfectly aware of the Law, but he show us the real meaning of the Law: it should lead us to freedom from sin, not to enslavement in literalism.

Jesus’ words, ”If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone a her,” remind us that nobody is perfect in following any of these commandments. Following the Law is always a process, with our goal not to be perfect but to discover God’s love for us.

To end, a key question: many times, Jesus repeats the phrase which we find on the end of this Gospel too: “Go away, and do not sin any more.” Is it possible that all these people really didn’t sin any more?

I think that this is the point of Jesus’ parables: the encounter with Jesus’ love and mercy changes everything. Even after I fall, even if I search for love in the wrong places, (infidelity, prostitution, relationships outside of marriage, porns, etc.), we recognize that we can’t act like this any more. Again and again, we long for real love and we struggle for the freedom from sin which only he can give us.

Rome, 17th of March 2013


15.03.2013.Author: p. Antun Volenik, SJ
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