The 5th Sunday of Lent –3rd April 2022
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 43:16-21; Ps. 126:1-6; Phil. 3:8-14; Jn. 8:1-11
Theme: May Lent make us aware of our sin so that we do not judge others
In this fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy presents the episode of the adulterous woman (Jn 8:1-11). In it two attitudes are opposed: that of the scribes and Pharisees on the one hand, and that of Jesus on the other. The former want to condemn women, because they feel they are guardians of the Law and its faithful application. However, Jesus wants to save her, because he personifies the mercy of God that by forgiving redeems and by reconciling renews.
While Jesus is teaching in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees bring him a woman caught in adultery. They place her in the midst of the crowd and ask Jesus if they should stone her, as the Law of Moses prescribes. The evangelist specifies that they put the question “to test him and to have reason to accuse him” (v. 6). It may be supposed that his object was this: not to stone her would have been reason enough to accuse Jesus of disobedience to the law; consenting to stoning, on the other hand, could serve as a pretext to denounce him to the Roman authority, which had reserved for itself the authority to grant this type of punishment and did not admit popular lynching.
Jesus’ interlocutors are closed in the bottlenecks of legalism and want to lock the Son of God in their perspective of judgment and condemnation. But he did not come into the world to judge and condemn, but to save and offer people a new life. And how does Jesus react?
First of all he remains for a while in silence, and he bends down to write with his finger on the ground, as if to remember that the only Lawgiver and Judge is God, then he says: “Those of you who are without sin, throw the first stone” (v. 7). Thus, Jesus appeals to the conscience of those men: they felt themselves to be “Paladins of righteousness”, but He brings them to the consciousness of their condition as sinful men, by whom the right of life or death cannot be claimed in their fellow human beings. At that point, one after the other, starting with the eldest – that is, those who had most experienced their own miseries – left, giving up stoning the woman. This scene also invites each of us to become aware that we are sinners and to let fall from our hands the stones of denigration and condemnation that we sometimes want to throw at others.
In the end, only Jesus and the woman remain there: “the wretch and the mercy”, as Saint Augustine says. Jesus is the only one without fault, the only one who could throw a stone at her, but doesn’t, because God “does not want the sinner to die, but for him to convert and live” (see Ezekiel 33:11). And Jesus sends the woman away with these wonderful words: “Go, and from now on sin no more” (v. 11). He opens before her a new path, created by mercy, a path that requires her commitment not to sin anymore. It is an invitation that applies to each of us.
In this season of Lent we are called to recognize ourselves as sinners and ask God for forgiveness. For at the same time that it reconciles us and gives us peace, it makes us begin a renewed history. Every true conversion is destined for a new future, for a new life, beautiful, free from sin, generous. May the Virgin Mary help us to witness all the merciful love of God who, in Jesus, forgives us and renews our existence, always offering us new possibilities.” Yes, in the desert God is still able “to open a new way” (Is 43:19). We must walk better with mercy between us and with all the Creation!
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. To be “Paladins of righteousness” or not? Which of the two postures leads to greater possibilities of life? Why? Bibliography: Angelus, 7 April 2019, 5th Sunday of Lent | Francis (vatican.va)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Fernando Gross, Brasil, Bat Kol Alumna: 2017,2018, 2019