Jesus does not condemn us sinners; he invites us to renewal.
Although without sin, despite his being like us, Jesus refuses to condemn the woman caught “in the very act of committing adultery.”
No doubt, those who brought her want to affirm their strict adherence to the law and the prophets. They also reveal their having no qualms about ruining vulnerable women who, while sinners, surely continue to be images of God. Unlike women, we men get away all too often.
Facing such accusers, one can rightly say that it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of people who are determined to achieve their goals by any means. In contrast, God is very merciful.
We humans insist, not rarely, on not leaving the guilty unpunished. We justify our way by appealing to the passage that says that God punishes the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ sins. It hardly occurs to us that maybe “third and fourth generation” serves to highlight even more God’s kindness for a “thousand generations.”
Indeed, we are sometimes more demanding than God. We even question the fairness of the one who does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather in their conversion, that they may live. We dismiss the explanation that comes from the book of Wisdom:
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things. You overlook the sins of men that they may repent.
Such explanation suggests that those who are quick to condemn only show their insecurity and weakness.
On the other hand, the poor who feel secure and strong in their heavenly Father cannot but be merciful as he is. Clothed with tender mercy, they become a new creation. They are no longer just caricatures of Christians, to cite St. Vincent de Paul, our model of conversion and renewal, who adds that those who do not feel for others lack humanity and are worse than beasts (SV.FR XII:271).
Those so converted behave in accordance with Jesus’ newness. They go, resolving not to sin anymore, not to look back to the past, whether glorious or shameful, but to look to something new that has already sprung forth. They adopt the lifestyle of the one who has turned everything upside-down with his Sermon on the Mount.
They live said sermon, too. Hence, as God forgives them, so they forgive those who sin against them. They forgive even their enemies, excusing them for their not knowing what they are doing.
They devote themselves also to the breaking of bread, the “new rite,” to which the “old rite” gives way.
Lord Jesus, clothe us with your tender mercy that will make us forget what lies behind to strain forward to what lies ahead.
March 13, 2016
5th Sunday of Lent (C)
Is 43, 16-21; Phil 3, 8-14; Jn 8, 1-11