Homily March 13th, 2016 the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
In today’s second reading, we see a prime example of that in Paul. From his encounter on the road with Jesus leading to his conversion, his past became irrelevant and his ministry and mission and future became all important to him.
In the gospel, Jesus himself was a man who was also at ease with himself and was dedicated to his own mission to teach and bring God’s message to humankind. He spoke and talked with authority, so much so that the Scribes and Pharisees felt challenged and thought they had to discredit Jesus as a threat to their own authority and to the present rule of law and authority. Their relationship to God for them was a set of Laws and rules and regulations that determined everything they did. They were fanatical and unbending in carrying out the law. God’s mercy and love and forgiveness were lost in their all consuming rush to judge and force everyone to meticulously follow the law. One law that required quick resolution was adultery. With this in mind, the Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman they say was caught in adultery. They quote that the law says such a woman be stoned to death. For Jesus, it is a conundrum since the law of Rome forbids such a thing and Jesus’ teaching is of love and forgiveness of God. Not mentioned in the story today is the fact that no witnesses are present, and the ancient law prescribed that both the man and the woman be stoned. So even in testing Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees were being deceptive and themselves using the law for their own purposes. When Jesus first bent down and basically ignored them, it seems they just continued pestering him with objections and questions. Note that after a time Jesus replies, but not with a judgment or a law or a teaching, but with a challenge: “If one of you is without sin, throw the first stone.”
Now tell me, who in any society, or assembly of friends or coworkers, or even standing alone could present themselves as sinless. Who could kill another while saying they were an innocent person. In such a way, Jesus disarmed the fanaticism of the crowd, pointed out the deficiencies of mindlessly following the law of words instead of the law God implanted on the hearts of all. The story of the woman should remind us all that what we did, what happened in the past is forgiven if we leave it in the past. It is what we do from here on that matters. It is what Paul tells us today and even Mark Twain in his own way tells us that there is a moment, a time when we know God is with us and it is what matters most.