Readings: Isaiah 43: 16–21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3: 8–14; John 8: 1–11
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.”
Indeed how gracious and merciful is our God. Isaiah tells us in today’s first reading that our God is doing something new…do we not perceive it? We only have to skip to the Gospel of the Fifth Sunday of Lent to see what is new. No longer does the old law pertain as we discover in the story of the woman caught in adultery. There is no doubt that she is guilty; she was caught in the act. The law commanded that she be stoned.
So the scribes and the Pharisees ask Jesus what he thinks. We are told that he writes something on the ground and then says “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he wrote on the ground again and they went away one by one. Many scripture commentators speculate as to what prompted the crowd to disperse. Some say that Jesus wrote down the sins of those standing nearby. Perhaps he just wrote their names in the sand as a reminder that they would be the ones responsible for the woman’s imminent death. Would it be far-fetched to think that Jesus might have written down some of their best qualities, that is, reminded them of their virtues and goodness? (Joshua is a kind husband; Ishmael always helps others; Samuel is a very good listener…) Sometimes we just need to be reminded about our good points to help us rise above mob behavior.
But this is a parable about forgiveness. Let us focus for a minute on the woman caught in the act of adultery. What was she thinking as she stood, hands bound and head bowed, before this angry mob of men? Was she frightened? Was she thinking about her lover and where he was now? Did her thoughts go to her family and the disgrace this would cause them? Perhaps she was wondering about how she had been caught in the first place. Did someone turn her in? It seems unlikely that at that moment she was thinking about asking for forgiveness. But that is exactly what Jesus was willing to do even before she could ask for it.
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart… (Pope Francis – Angelus on March 17, 2013)
Our God is gracious and merciful. Yes, God is doing something new. Do we not perceive it?
–Sr. Donna Dodge
As Executive Director of Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation, Sr. Donna oversees 11 sites in Staten Island, Rockland, and Manhattan that provide affordable and supportive housing for over 800 residents.
Thanks Donna for your reflections. Lots to think about.