40 Shades of Lent, 5th Sunday-C, 07 April 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21///Philippians 3:8-14///John 8:1-11
Today is the last Sunday of Lent. It is hoped that by this time since Ash Wednesday, we have slowly acquired or even regained our contemplative spirit of prayerful silence. It is something very essential not only during these 40 days and in the coming Holy Week. It is only in silent prayers can we truly find balance in life as we discover what is valuable and what is worthless, things that last and things that pass. Prayerful silence teaches us to slow down, to be more discerning, and more trusting. The contemplative spirit thus leads us to grow deeper in our faith, hope and love in God. It is in the contemplative spirit where God works best in us.
We find this invitation to a contemplative spirit in our beautiful gospel today of a woman caught committing adultery whom Jesus refused to condemn. Unlike the previous four weeks when we heard all gospels taken from Luke, this Sunday’s story is from John that perfectly fits last week’s parable of the prodigal son to show us God’s immense love and mercy for us sinners. Every conversion, every contrition of sins presupposes silence. Recall how the lost son last Sunday realized his sinfulness while silently tending swine in a far away land.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.John 8:1-6
We have seen how Jesus foiled other insidious plots against him through tricky questions but this one involving a woman caught committing adultery shows us a fine image of him as the Christ. His silence, his bending down and his writing on the ground are moving moments that touch our hearts and make us wonder all the more, who is this man?
More than addressing a question that concerns the many dilemmas we face in life, this episode shows us that it is something that directly concerns Jesus Christ himself, his being our Savior. Notice at the start of the story where Jesus is presented always going to the Mount of Olives to pray, to be one with the Father. This episode happened after he had entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, showing us how Jesus became more intense in praying, in being one with the Father when his final days were approaching. That is the contemplative spirit.
Now feel the atmosphere of those tense moments when people brought the woman caught committing adultery to Jesus: everybody was saying something, emotions were running high, just like us in our own time with social media around us. We live in so much noises where everybody and everything is talking that we fail to listen to our very selves, to others and most especially to God always silent. See how Jesus was so cool – or “chillax” as young people would say. It was an astonishing reaction to the situation. Only a person with deep contemplative spirit like Jesus can be so composed and silent in a tense situation like that. It is always easier to react and say something than be silent to weigh everything. Too often in the world today, words are so empty that they have to be shouted all around and repeated so often in the hope they become true, exactly what every election candidate is doing!
Jesus chose to be silent so we may realize that issues of sin and evil are best resolved in a contemplative spirit where we find the value of every person that we condemn the sin not the sinner. History has shown time and again how wars and violence or any other harsh methods like death penalty have proven ineffective in correcting any injustice or wrongdoing and preventing crimes. Where there is severity in measures against evil, we find only more deaths and burials happening but never peace and justice.
Now more than ever in Jesus Christ, we have found and experienced God’s mercy so abounding and closest to us sinners if we are truly sorry and ready to change. Like the woman caught committing adultery or the prodigal son last Sunday, we have to reach out to Christ to be forgiven from our sins. He assures us of never being condemned, of deleting our past sins and assuring us with a bright future to receive his promises if we “go and sin no more.”
We have to stress that Jesus does not approve sins. Never. He recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her “go and sin no more.” Likewise, Jesus never asked us to stop fighting sins. When he dared the people of whoever has no sin be the first to cast the stone, Jesus never meant us to be silent with the evil and wrongdoings happening around us. This encounter between Jesus and the woman committing adultery invites us to examine first, our own attitudes toward others guilty of serious sins. And secondly, to examine our own reactions when our misery meets with God’s mercy especially in the sacrament of penance or reconciliation.
Do we choose to be harsh like the crowd or be gentle like Christ?
How sad that even with our very selves we are so unforgiving, so severe that we hardly move on in life. Only in a contemplative spirit can we truly experience God’s liberating mercy and forgiveness within us and with others. The contemplative spirit enables us to trust God that no matter how sinful we are, his love and mercy are more powerful, able to transform us all into better persons, even saints! This is the promise of God in the first reading that he would do something greater than what he had done in liberating his people from Egypt – that he would send our Savior not only to forgive our many sins but even to share in his glory as saints.
St. Paul in the second reading could speak of “considering everything as a loss in knowing Christ Jesus” because of the contemplative spirit he acquired after his conversion. His letters all reveal to us St. Paul’s contemplative spirit and intimacy with Jesus Christ that flowed out into his daily life, reaching its summit in his martyrdom.
As the season of Lent comes to a close on this fifth Sunday, we are reminded of the path of conversion we have followed these past four weeks under St. Luke’s guidance. Conversion leads to contemplation, a daily communion with God in prayerful silence and allow him to suffuse us with his love. Its fruits are seen in our daily lives. It is the work of God, not us. It is God who renews us in silence into a new creation. We simply have to remain in Christ and strive always “to go and sin no more”. Amen.