Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: “Jesus said, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’” (John 8:7)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday, April 7 2019
“Sally, a young woman attending seminary in preparation for ministry, related an experience she had in one of her classes.
“Dr. Smith, a revered professor, was known for his elaborate and often unorthodox lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into his class and knew they were in for some fun. On the wall was posted a large bulls-eyed target, and on a nearby table were many darts.
“Dr. Smith instructed the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, then he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture after they’d affixed the drawing to the target on the wall.
“One of Sally’s classmates drew a picture of a rival for the affections of a young man who had once been her boyfriend. Another student drew a picture of a younger sibling who was particularly troublesome. Sally drew a picture of a former friend who had betrayed a confidence, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even including pimples on the face. Sally was pleased with the overall effect she had achieved.
“Then, at the professor’s instruction and one by one, members of the class placed their picture on the bulls-eye and began hurling darts at the object of their anger. After one student had taken out her hostilities on the picture she’d drawn, another student came forward, posted his picture and hurled the darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that the target was ripping apart.
“Sally looked forward to her turn but was filled with disappointment when, because of time limits, Dr. Smith asked the students to return to their seats. Sulking as she sat, Sally’s anger seethed only the more because she didn’t have a chance to throw any darts at her drawing.
“Then, slowly and very deliberately, Dr. Smith began removing the large bulls-eyed target from the wall, revealing on its reverse side the face of Jesus. After a gasp, an uncomfortable hush fell over the room as each student considered the mangled face of Jesus. Holes and jagged marks covered his face, and his eyes were pierced. Dr. Smith said only these words: ‘Just as you did it to one of the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40) “No other words were spoken as the tear-filled eyes of the students focused on the torn and broken face of Jesus.” (Original source unknown)
Self-righteous condemnation of others seems to have reached epidemic proportions in our American culture. Almost daily, journalists and news commentators judge, sentence and execute someone, and the backlog of lawsuits awaiting trial speaks much of our great desire to seek vengeance on hurts real or imagined.
Today’s gospel passage reminds us, though, that this is no new phenomenon. When the scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman guilty of adultery, his response was shocking. Rather than condemning her to death by stoning, as Jewish law prescribed, Jesus invited compassionate understanding from her accusers with the words, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Each scribe and Pharisee begrudgingly having to admit in his own heart that he was guilty of some transgression of the law for which he’d not been caught, those formerly ready to stone the woman just walked away in sullen silence. And the lesson here is not that she wasn’t guilty, but that we’re all guilty, individually and collectively, of the sins that continue to foster suffering and death in our world.