Believe it or not, it is already the Fifth Sunday of Lent. We have departed from the Gospel of Luke and read from the Gospel of John. Once again, the Gospel passage is a familiar one. It is the story of the woman caught in adultery whom the scribes and pharisees bring before Jesus. Of course, they quote the law of Moses. Then they challenge Jesus regarding the punishment of stoning. This Gospel is all about the mercy of God. Jesus does not condemn the woman but tells her, “From now on, do not sin anymore.” Neither does Jesus condemn those who are ready to stone the woman. He simply says: Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In the early Church, Christians struggled with the notion that God would forgive someone if they sinned gravely after their baptism. The sins they were particularly concerned with were: apostacy, adultery, and murder. People were baptized as adults (or often delayed baptism until they were adults so as not to falter after baptism). As the Church began to understand that God was indeed merciful, the first response to those who sinned gravely after Baptism is that they would have one more chance. They could enter the Order of Penitents – and would do rigorous prayer and fasting and penance during the Lenten Season – and then be received back into communion with the Church at Easter tine. The time in which one might be in the Order of Penitents might be longer than one Lenten Season. (More details about that in another article or teaching). Penance came to be called “Second Baptism” since one was not rebaptized. So, what is the Gospel trying to teach us today? It is so much easier for us to point out other people’s sins and faults than it is to confront our own. It is so much easier to “throw stones” at others and act as though we are “judge and jury” than it is to compliment, affirm, or show compassion to others. We are called to love our neighbors, not to condemn them. We dare to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus reiterates this in the way he responds to the woman caught in adultery. The ministry of Jesus is not about separating or excluding people but about including them through forgiveness and reconciliation. How do we model the compassion and mercy of God and imitate Christ in our willingness to forgive?
We have one week left before Holy Week begins. Please look at the opportunities remaining for spiritual enrichment and reconciliation these Lenten days.
Blessings on your Lenten Journey!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ