Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”
By: Fr. Karabari Paul
Homily for Sunday April 3 2022
In our Gospel of today (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus, present him with the woman caught committing adultery, knowing that there is a law in place for those who commit this sin. According to the law, she must be stoned. Here, Jesus has two options to rely on. He can agree with the Law, in which case he becomes a part in her judgment and also responsible for her death. On the other hand, he can disagree with the Law, telling them to let her go free, but would lose the respect of the people and possibly meet the ire of religious leaders. However, Jesus sees through this plot and responds in a way the Pharisees could never have predicted; “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her’” (John 8: 6-7).
Not surprisingly, the men drop their stones, one by one leaving them. We interpret this part as Jesus having written each of their sins on the ground, astonishing them to the point where they leave, speechless. Only one person could have rightfully condemned her. Only one person could have thrown that first stone. This one person is Jesus himself. He is the only human born without sin, therefore would have the right to judge. However, Jesus does not judge, but he lets the woman decide herself, a true moment of change.
After the men leave, Jesus goes to the woman and says, “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again’” (John 8: 10-11). This is a turning point in Christianity. He gives her a fresh start, a second chance, to start anew. It seems as if he passes no judgment here, as he releases the woman. However, this is not so, remembering the writing in the sand. Jesus in fact did give a judgment to both parties involved, though that judgment, as usual, surprised both parties.
In this passage, he put into motion the idea of confession for one’s inner sin, as a personal desire to repent and receive God’s grace through being cleansed. This was different from what the people were customary to, as in the Old Testament, it was the people who sinned, and suffered as a people. Here, Jesus is calling each person, including women, to the opportunity to feel God’s love and forgiveness for themselves, to later help others and not judge them.
Again, no one bothers to ask about the man with whom she committed adultery. They could have brought both the man and the woman, or even just the man before Jesus. However, they do not; they bring him the woman. The reason for bringing only the woman could possibly be because they were men, and wanted to protect other men at the expense of women. Women were often neglected and put below men during this time and for generations before, as the man was head of the household. This relates back to Genesis and the Fall, as the people sought to blame Eve for the sin. But Jesus shows once again that he is the voice of the voiceless, defender of the weak and stands against unjust structures. He is not afraid nor ashamed to identify with the rejected and condemned.
That day Jesus lifted this woman from a position of undeniable guilt to one of unconditional pardon. She didn’t deserve it; she didn’t even know it was possible. And that is your story too, isn’t it? One day Abraham Lincoln watched a plantation owner bidding for a slave girl. Figuring he was going to buy her and abuse her, Lincoln paid the price to set her free. ‘Does this mean I can go wherever I want to go?’ she asked. Lincoln said, ‘Yes, you are free!’ With tears streaming down her face she replied, ‘Then, sir, I will go with you’ When someone has done something wrong, we can often respond by condemning them. That is what the Pharisees were doing when they brought the woman before Jesus. But the Bible says: ‘How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7:4).
Jesus meets us in our dark places, our sin and our brokenness. He heals the wounds of our past because his grace is greater than our shame. Where there is sin, His grace is also there. And there is no limit to the grace he can supply. If we are feeling the weight of our shameful past and sinful ways, Jesus is inviting us to come to him. He is ready to forgive us and set us free if we are ready to start anew. The First Reading (Isaiah 43:16-21) agrees that God is doing a new thing; giving hope in hopeless situation and bringing life where the sentence of death had been passed. It is a total transformation. But if we are too attached to our hurtful past and former ways of sin, it becomes difficult for us to move ahead with the new grace supplied. And according to the Second Reading (Philippians 3:8-13), we must realise that Christ has made us his own. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God heal our world. God bless you and your household always through Christ Our Lord Amen. Happy Celebration
Fr. Karabari Paul