Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C
Theme: Story of the Adulterous Woman
By: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Pena Blanca, NM, USA
Homily for Sunday April 3 2022
No one can claim that he or she doesn’t have at least one weakness, doesn’t commit sins, or make mistakes. We are all sinners, and none of us is a saint (Romans 3:24-25; 1 John 1:10). Moreover, if we spent a fraction of the time and resources, we normally spend on tearing one another down with our words and actions on praising positive behaviors and offering the best possible solutions to our shortcomings, the world would be a better place for everyone.
Each passing day serves as a reminder that it is past time for us to grow tired of people who are only interested in pointing out our flaws in order to ridicule us and instead focus our efforts on those who understand that we are works in progress and that we are more than the sum of our weaknesses and find ways to uplift us. Indeed, Hebrew 3:13 clearly states: “Encourage one another daily, as long as the day is named “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the illusion of sin.”
It is important to remember that saints are saints for reasons other than their own strengths, virtues, or natural abilities. They are saints as a result of working on their imperfections to a heroic degree. They are saints because they confessed their shortcomings to God and allowed him to transform and strengthen them.
As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” The fact that every saint was once a normal person like the rest of us, and that no one is born into sainthood, could perhaps encourage us in our struggles with sin and our weaknesses.
Saul, who later became Apostle Paul and Saint Paul, the former persecutor of the church and Apostle to the Gentiles, reflected on his life, saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me “(1 Corinthians 15:10). “Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well,” said St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and I believe it!
It is always fascinating to read about the saints, especially how they struggled with their weaknesses and became saints, which are sometimes found in their journals. Some hagiographers (writers of the lives of the saints) want to portray them as superhumans: born saints who lived a holy life and were then canonized. However, the Saints struggled with sins and imperfections, even sexual sins, like us too. The difference between saints and sinners is cooperation with the grace of God.
Because of his struggles with lust, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was chosen as “the universal patron of youth.” He did not have modern-day seductions such as the internet, but he did live in a palace filled with temptations. He made a vow of virginity when he was nine years old, and the devil began to tempt him with strong sexual desires and sexual sins. Knowing his weaknesses, he didn’t give up and God didn’t take them away either but gave him grace.
Aloysius wrestled with his sexual passion by learning custody of the eye and the austerity of life. He simply believed that unless he mortified his body, he just would not get that passion under control. You do not control that passion without mortification; you just don’t. It will be even harder these days, given our temperament and the circumstances in which we are living. As a result, we need the grace of God. And we get this grace through prayer and mortification.
“This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). The demon of lust is one of them. Despite the fact that he lacks a body, he understands how by instilling this passion in people, he can lead them into any kind of sin. As a result, the Church has held up Saint Aloysius Gonzaga as a model of victory over lust and what we can achieve with God’s grace.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus uses the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:1–11) to illustrate to us that we are not the sum of our sins, weaknesses, and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.
The story of the adulterous woman contains two completely different perspectives: that of the scribes and Pharisees, on the one hand, and that of Jesus, on the other. The Pharisees and scribes wished to condemn her because they only saw her for her sin of adultery, an adulterous woman. On the other hand, Jesus saw her for her true self, as a child of God who had made mistakes.
Today, Jesus wishes that we acknowledge that we are all sinners and that none of us is a saint. He wants us to understand that we are who we are today because of God’s grace. He makes us realize that it is not so much about living a life free of challenges as it is about how we can triumph over our troubles through God’s grace. John Braford is said to have said, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford,” when he saw people being led to the scaffold.
As a result, let us let go of the stones of denigration, of condemnation, and of gossip, which at times we would like to cast at others. Let us pray for the grace to recognize the greatness in others and to have a compassionate and merciful attitude when we see others, especially when they are in their lowest moments. May the Virgin Mary assist us in bearing witness to God’s forgiving mercy, which forgives us and renews our lives through Jesus, by always offering us new opportunities.
Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Pena Blanca, NM, USA