My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Lent is almost over. It’s coming to an end — a week from today it is going to be Palm Sunday and then Holy Week begins. So we are almost there. We can see the goal.
So, this Sunday, especially, we are getting ready. The Church in these readings is preparing us to meet Jesus in a new way — just as the Prophet Isaiah says in the 1st reading:
“Thus says the Lord …
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!”
What is this new way? It is Jesus Christ, who came to earth to redeem us from our sins. The love and mercy of God shown in His only son: Jesus Christ.
And today’s readings really take us to the ‘heart of the Gospel’: the tender mercy of our God.
That is what we see in today’s passage of the Gospel. The scribes and Pharisees are testing Jesus. They are looking for some charge they can bring to prosecute him.
So they find this woman who was caught in the act of adultery, and they bring her to him in the Temple area.
Now, as we heard, in the Law of Moses, the punishment for this sin, this crime, was the death penalty. The scribes and Pharisees want to see what Jesus is going to do. Will he agree that this woman deserves to die for her sins, or will he say they should set her free?
I was thinking that we also need to understand that somehow this woman’s story is our own story. This woman stands before Jesus as the whole human race, all through history. As the whole human race, all through history, stands before the eyes of God.
What do we deserve for our sins, for our failings? We know what God wants. Even before he gave us the Ten Commandments, he wrote his law in our hearts. Every one of us knows in our heart — how we should live, how we should treat other people.2
We want to be good, don’t we? We want to do what is right. And yet we fall, again and again. It is not because we are bad people. It is because we are human and we need God to help us, to save us.
God knows all this about us. He knows your heart and my heart better than we know ourselves. He loves us in our humanity, in our fallen nature. He doesn’t always like what we do. But he loves us with a love that will never end.
As we know, Jesus did not come for the righteous. He came to save sinners. And that means you and me, every one of us.
And this is the beautiful mystery of God’s love for us — even though we are sinners, he comes to bear our sins; he comes to die for us, so we can be forgiven.
This is the beautiful plan of God’s love for us. God loves us no matter what. No matter what we have done or what we have failed to do.
We are God’s own “possession,” as St. Paul tells us in the second reading today. We hear the same message in the first reading. We are God’s “chosen people,” the people he formed for himself.
This is who you are to God! And God is never going to let you go. Never!
That is why — reflecting on the passage of the Gospel — this is why those words we hear from Jesus today in the Gospel are so important:
Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.
My brothers and sisters, these are words of freedom. God’s love breaks into our lives as liberation! God did not send his Son into the world to condemn us. He sent his Son to save us!3
We know that, but we need to reflect as we are coming to the beautiful time of Holy Week — to reflect what this week is all about.
It’s about Jesus Christ coming to redeem us. So let’s reflect on that, especially this week, as we prepare for Holy Week.
Jesus, at the same time, does not excuse the woman’s sin or pretend that it’s not important. But he doesn’t condemn her for it either. He condemns the sin, but not the sinner.
And isn’t it beautiful that we have the same grace available to us every time we go to Confession. So I also think that our Gospel today is a good reminder for all of us to make a good Confession during this holy season.
In Confession, we are stand before Jesus, in the person of the priest, just as this woman does in the Gospel today. And the priest brings us the same words that she heard, those beautiful words of our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
This is what Holy Week is all about. This is what this Lenten season has been preparing us for. This is the salvation that Jesus brings to us. This is “new thing” that God is doing in Jesus.
Let’s keep trying to reflect, as we prepare for Holy Week, how important it is for us to understand God’s love for each one of us. And at the same time, let’s take time to acknowledge our sinfulness. And taking advantage especially of the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we feel God’s love and forgiveness in our daily lives.
So, this week, as we continue in our Lenten journey, let us try to reflect on the many ways that we can find God’s love working in our lives.
And maybe another practical thing that we can do is to try to make a special effort this week not to condemn other people, not to be so judgmental. Let us try to show others the mercy that God shows to us.
And may Mary our Blessed Mother help us to keep looking forward to the celebration of Holy Week and then the joy of witnessing the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
1. Readings: Isa. 43:16-21; Ps. 126:1-6; Phil. 3:8-14; John 8:1-11.