Fifth Sunday of Lent (C)
The Gospel episode of the woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery may not necessarily lead us to the 8th Commandment that you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, because the report could likely be true. But it could be a situation of constantly rubbing grains of salt on a wound, so that the wound of that society was not allowed to heal. The Jewish elders implemented the law to the letter, and they would put transgressors to death, particularly the weak and those without influence in society. God already said in the book of Izekiel: “Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?…. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?” (Iz 18:23).
A more difficult situation to prove though, in relation to the Jewish leaders and the woman they brought before Jesus, would be their involvement with her; and at some time they would also hear Jesus saying: “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person….” (Mt 15:19-20). So Jesus said to the Jewish Elders: “let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). Predictably, “they went away one by one, beginning with the elders,” (Jn 8:9) leaving the woman alone in front of Jesus. At this point, Jesus was striking something new with the woman and the Jewish community, as He said to her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?… Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore” (Jn 8:10). She was no longer the accused. She was a woman on the way to conversion. God started to work in her as a person who was lost and now found, dead and now restored to life. God regained her from the mire of sin, as well as from the cruelty of her own elders.
When we try to justify ourselves because of a wrong we have done, we look for somebody to involve in our folly. We blame others rather than look into ourselves. Our mouths become bigger than our heads that think, and our tongues get longer than our arms that can serve. We cannot deny that from the abundance of our hearts, our mouths speak. Thus, we will be judged according to our judgment on others, and will be measured and compensated according to what we used to measure others.
A deeper reality in the Gospel episode today is that the Pharisees and Scribes wanted to eliminate from their community, not particularly the woman supposedly caught in the act of adultery, but Jesus, who, they realized, was too much for them. He was bringing out something radical and was looking at the law from the perspective of the love of God. Today many of us and many world leaders want to eliminate Jesus and the signs of Jesus from our communities. We deploy innumerable projects of development, and seek to destroy the moral fiber of our faith and hope, even though we know that our countries and constitutions are built on Christian principles. We promote ourselves and our achievements, and dethrone the Creator and King of the universe from our hearts. We also know that wealth, power and technology are not sufficient to keep us going in this world. In fact, we are suffering from many of their inherent consequences. We know and are convinced that all men need the guidance and love of God that cannot be provided adequately by any man or law.
We are also hardheaded and forgetful. We do not learn from our mistakes, and much more we do not learn from the opportunities God has given us. Realities in the history of the people of God tell us that history may repeat itself, and when it does in the context of sin and immorality, it would be due to our foolishness. If we do not know our history, we are bound to fail.
Joseph was brought to Egypt by those who bought him from his brothers. He was imprisoned because Potiphar’s wife accused Him (Joseph) of taking advantage of her. But Joseph was faithful to God. He was freed and became the administrator of Pharaoh’s house.
Susanna, Joakim’s wife, was also falsely accused of immorality, but she could only turn to God in her difficult moments. She said: “I am completely trapped…. If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power. Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord” (Daniel 13:22-23). Her accusers thought that God was not watching. But the Lord protected her, because she trusted in Him.
As Holy Week approaches, let us again build our trust in Jesus and experience Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for through this Sacrament we are set free from slavery to sin and liberated in peace. We also recognize that temptation is an enticement to turn away from God, and should be faced squarely and dismissed. At the end of Mass, we are sent to announce the Gospel and to glorify God by our life. This world is for us a big battlefield against evil. Nevertheless, God, in His greatness, gives us His Son to be our strength, so we can again be restored to His life.