5th Sunday of Lent – Justice & Mercy


Study:  When have I truly experienced mercy from another person?  When have I been clearly in the wrong yet encountered understanding and compassion?

Pray:  Is there something in my life that needs God’s mercy?  Is there something or someone that I need God’s help to face?

Serve:  How can I practice mercy right now with someone in my life?

5th Sunday of Lent Readings

Teaching in the temple area, Jesus is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees with a woman (where is the man?) caught in adultery.  We are told that their intention is not justice, but to trap Jesus – so he can be arrested and silenced.

Here is the overview of John 8:1-11.
1           Jesus at the Mount of Olives
2          Jesus teaching in the temple area
3-6      Woman is brought to Jesus; Law is stated
7          Jesus writing on the ground
8          “Let the one without sin cast the first stone”
9          Everyone leaves; Jesus & the Woman alone
10        “Has no one condemned you?”
11        “No one, sir.”
“Neither do I…Go, and sin no more.”

Note that in this passage the Lord addresses two different groups.  The first group is composed of sinners.  His words to the scribes and Pharisees are profound:  “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Obviously, they must drop their stones; reflection and experience bring back numerous reminders of their sins.

Yet there is someone present who is without sin – JESUS!  His words to the crowd are about himself; he has the right and the authority to judge.

When the crowd finally disperses, he has the opportunity to speak to the woman.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”  Two crucial points surface from these words.

First, Jesus tells the truth; the behavior in question is a sin.  He does not ignore the fact, nor does he try to defend or explain it away.  He says it simply and directly.  His word is justice.

Second, the compassion of Jesus is evident in his gentle forgiveness.  He has the right to judge her, and he chooses mercy.

With the scribes and Pharisees Jesus reminds us “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1).  With the woman Jesus reminds us that in our sin and weakness we come to the Lord who longs to heal and restore us.

Which response speaks to us today?  We know that sin is real.  We know that all of us have failed and fallen through temptation and evil.  Do we need to ask forgiveness – for ourselves, or for presuming to judge others?  The Lord waits for us!

About Fr. Andrew Ricci

A Catholic priest since 1997, Fr. Andrew Ricci is currently the rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior, WI. His website "Three Great Things" can be found at studyprayserve.com and his podcasts can be found under "Catholic Inspiration" in the iTunes store. View all posts by Fr. Andrew Ricci

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