Read Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:8-14 and John 8:1-11)_
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own … I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize…”
Last Sunday, we read the story of the Prodigal Son. The elder brother did not join in the welcome-back-party because he felt cheated. He felt his brother deserved to be punished for going out to enjoy. Little did he know that his brother was returning from misery, pain and regret.
Today’s readings are quite related. However this time around, it was not the younger brother that returned to the father, the elder brother (in the person of the Scribes and Pharisees) arrested him (in the person of the woman caught in adultery) and brought him to Jesus for approval of the death sentence.
Note that these were the same Scribes and Pharisees who were already discussing among themselves how to kill Jesus.
They seemed to have found a perfect opportunity of “using one stone to kill two birds.” Unfortunately for them, their plans failed.
Jesus proved beyond doubt that He is God, all powerful, all knowing, all wise, all merciful and all just. The scribes and Pharisees went home in shame. There are so many lessons to learn today:
Be Careful of Those who Quote the Bible Wrongly
In the first place, it is interesting to note that these Scribes and Pharisees were too eager to condemn that they forgot to cross-check what was actually written in the Bible.
What exactly did Moses write? Leviticus 20 verse 10 reads: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” Moses never said that ONLY the woman should be stoned. So, why did these men leave out the man involved? This simply tells us how blind we become in our attempt to condemn other people.
Be careful of self-righteous people who claim to know the entire Bible off-heart yet their heart is far from God.
No wonder Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”, a bunch of hypocrites whose spirituality was simply to attract attention to themselves. Dear friends, read the Bible for yourself, never allow any so-called man or woman of God lead you astray in the name of quoting the Bible.
Never be Too Quick to Respond
Jesus teaches us an important lesson in today’s Gospel passage; the importance of meditation and prayer before responding. As John explains, “they asked him this as a test looking for something to use against him.”
Those who come to us to discuss other people are not our true friends, they bring gossip to us just to get our contribution which they would eventually use in bringing us down.
I believe Jesus started writing on the ground with his finger as a way of buying time for some reflection and prayer. It is always best to say a prayer no matter how short before answering questions. Call for God’s help because you never know who is who.
Women Deserve Equal Dignity with Men
The fact that they brought only the woman may also have something to say about social inequality between men and woman in that society. Unfortunately, not much has changed in our society today.
When a married man is unfaithful, people are quick to dowse it off, the woman is told to quickly forgive and forget.
Women these days are advised to stay off their husband’s phones so they can have peace of mind. Some women will even say, “I don’t care if he cheats, so long as he doesn’t bring the woman home.”
But what happens when a married woman is unfaithful? The whole community must gather to judge the case, in fact, not only will the marriage end, the woman will suffer from social stigma all her life because of the public humiliation that would follow.
What is bad is bad. Adultery is a sin regardless of who is doing it. Women should not be the only ones to suffer for it, men should also be subjected to worse treatment by society if we are really determined to stamp it out.
First Take Out the Log in Your Eye
Why is that it is so difficult to examine our own conscience but we are busy all day analysing, judging and dissecting other people? It is so bad that some people even come to confession and go about mentioning the sins of others while painting themselves as sinless and spotless.
To really teach these unjust Scribes and Pharisees a lesson, Jesus said: “Let him who has not sinned be the first to cast a stone at her.” This was a moment of truth!
For the first time in their entire lives, they were forced to do an examination of conscience and we are told that beginning with the oldest, they dropped their stones one by one and walked away. Note that Jesus did not say, “Let him who has never committed adultery…”
No. He said, “Let him who has never sinned at all…” There is no such thing as “big sin” or “small sin.” The fact that you haven’t committed adultery but you tell lies frequently does not make you holier or nearer to God than someone who commits adultery. All sins are abominations to God.
Examination of conscience is to the soul what regular medical check-up is to the body. If we don’t do it regularly, we die. The more we examine our own hearts, the less judgmental we are to others and the more likely we would succeed at winning souls.
Go and Sin More; Keep Striving for Perfection
It is surprising that Jesus himself who was obviously the only sinless person left with the woman did not cast the first stone. He asked the woman: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.”
God hates the sin but no amount of sin reduces His Love for us. God weeps for us when we choose to sin but rejoices like the Prodigal Father when we repent. God is not interested in meting out punishment for our sins. Rather, God looks forward always to salvation.
Dear friends, the essence of being a Christian according to St. Paul is simply striving for perfection. Note that based on our own efforts, we can never achieve this perfection. We are constantly in need of help from above. Having tried and failed St. Paul confesses: “I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts… but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 4:9)
How often have I beat my chest and promised myself never to do this or that again, only to find myself returning to my vomit? The truth is that without God’s help, we can never attain perfection and if we are able to avoid sin, we should give credit to God and refrain from judging others. Never look down on people except you are planning to lift them up.
No Matter What My Past Has Been, I can Begin Anew
God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Each of us has a past. You may see yourself as a desert, God is saying, I will make rivers flow from you. You may have gone deep in sin, yet God is saying: “my child, you can still be a Saint.”
The God who called a murderer and changed his name from Saul to Paul is the same God we serve. Even St. Paul himself tells us in today’s second reading: “All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain for what lies ahead; I race for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us.” Forget the past. Rise, change, repent, go and sin no more!
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me the courage to cut off my ties with the past, the wisdom to leave sin behind and the grace strive for perfection daily. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Fifth Sunday of Lent. Year C. Bible Study: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:8-14 and John 8:1-11)