Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: THE HUMAN, DEMONIC & DIVINE FACE OF THE LAW!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily for Sunday April 3 2022
*Is 43 : 16 – 21, Phil 3 : 8 – 14, Jn 8 : 1 – 11.
Adultery is one of the greatest sins that an average African man and his society will never tolerate and forgive his wife for. But paradoxically, it is one of the simplest sins he and his society will expect his wife to tolerate and forgive. Is that not funny?
That is why I would like us today to look at this thing I have decided to call ‘the human, demonic and divine face of the law’ because I have seen here in Nigeria a situation where one particular law can have so many faces; black, white or red.
B. THE HUMAN FACE OF THE LAW
The law of Moses was quite clear against adultery as stipulated in Deuteronomy 22 : 23: If a man has sex with a married woman and they are caught, they should both be taken to the gate of the town and stoned. This law was further expatiated in Numbers 5 : 11 – 31 in the case where a husband suspects his wife without evidence. The man should bring his wife before the priest and make an offering. The priest will take fresh water in a jar and on the water throw dust that has been collected from the floor of the sanctuary. He will hold this ‘water of bitterness’ as it is called and pronounce a conditional curse on the woman. If she is guilty, there will be swelling of her belly and shrivelling of her sexual organs but if she is innocent, nothing will happen to her. One other interesting aspect of this law is that if the husband has ever been guilty of the same offence the law of the bitter waters seizes to function.
So, how come it that in the cause of the implementation of this law, the Jews so much degenerated in this human sense of justice to the point where we find it in today’s gospel?
C. THE DEMONIC FACE OF THE LAW
We have to take note of the fact that the devil has a very poor sense of justice. The Bible calls him ‘the accuser of the children of God’, Rev 12 : 11. He takes pleasure in arraigning the children of God with accusations and counter accusations and rejoices when they are found guilty and punished.
In today’s gospel, we see the Scribes and Pharisees playing out this demonic script in the accusation of the woman caught pants down in the very act of adultery. Imagine how happy the devil feels if she were a CWO leader or even a Reverend Sister caught with a Catholic priest. But Jesus gives them a shocking surprise of their life by asking the person who is sinless to be the first to cast the stone.
One interesting thing Jesus did was to bend down like a Jewish priest to write on the floor; as if to gather the floor of the sanctuary which he would give the woman to drink; or if the woman and husband was innocent, to write and blot out. But he writes and continued to write. He saw with his godly eyes that the accusers were guilty of similar crimes. Yes, the worst offenders are often the worst accusers. That is the demonic face of the law.
D. THE DIVINE FACE OF THE LAW
The 1st reading of today says: Behold I am doing something new…Can you not see it? …I am making a road in the wilderness and releasing water there for my chosen people to drink. Jesus is launching a new dispensation of justice where the repentant sinners will drink from the well of divine mercy and be reconciled again to God.
That is why Jesus had to bend down to write in today’s gospel in order to launch this new dispensation of justice. The justice of God sometimes takes note of the ‘principle of comparative righteousness’ – implying that if others were worst sinners, why would the woman be condemned? What Jesus did was not to abandon judgment or trivialize the matter. He only deferred the sentence and said: ‘I am not going to pass a final judgment now if no one is righteous enough here to condemn you; so woman, go and prove that you can do better!’ And that is the divine face of the law.
Our society is so full of jungle justice. Oppression of women and children is the trademark of every heathen culture; example, the ATR and Islamic religion. So many cultures in places like Igboeze and Uzo Uwani areas of Nsukka still oppress married women through demonic covenants “nso ALU” or “ishiu” as they are respectively called.
*A woman has actually been once brought to my office by the Youths of a particular village (in one the parishes I have worked) for a case of adultery and honestly I had the same challenge that Jesus had in today’s gospel. When they claimed that the man has escaped, I did not know how I could be judging one person for a case committed voluntarily by two persons. So I had to think of ways of making the woman to sin no more.
In overcivilized countries like UK and US, we are now seeing cases of oppression of men by women.
*I have seen a Nigerian woman living in UK frustrate his husband to death with accusations of infidelity even when she herself was guilty and strip the man of all his hard earned treasures in court. The man has died of hypertension and the woman too has died.
I have seen in Nigeria the oppression by ruling parties in the name of anti corruption fight – a fight that looks completely on the opposite side once the offender belongs to the ruling party. I have seen the police and the military being demonized like we see during elections where the rightful instruments of justice are turned into the wrongful instruments of oppression. These are all demonic faces of the law around us.
God wants to do something new through Christianity; the only religion that preaches a perfect balance between justice and mercy. Jesus’ last word in today’s gospel is: ‘Go and sin no more’. The last hope of every Christian is the sacrament of reconciliation. Our sacraments are like rivers in the desert, especially the sacrament of reconciliation where we get the grace to begin again like the woman caught in adultery in today’s gospel.
St Paul says: ‘I have counted as rubbish everything else save for the surpassing advantage of knowing Jesus Christ my lord’. His suffering for us at Calvary has tremendously changed our narrative with regards to the consequences of our past sins. All we need now is the perfection that comes through authentic faith in Christ so that there will be no hypocrisy. Happy Sunday dear friends.