5th Sunday of Lent C

She comes captured by a mob.  She comes alone although they claim that she has been caught with another.  Her life is on the line.  She is not the object of her accuser’s ire. If it had been only about her actions they would not have brought her before this obscure Rabbi, Jesus.  She is only a pawn in a scheme to entrap Jesus.  But that does not make her situation any different.  Her life is in the hands of this one intercessor, this teacher, this stranger. 

They come to place Jesus in a quandary.  To find a reason to charge him with a crime against his own religion.  Their means may be this woman but their target is Jesus.  They are planning on the demise of both.  They come to test him.  “This woman,” they say, “has been caught in the very act.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?”  You have proclaimed you love of sinners.  What you love them even beyond what the law allows?  Betray your people of betray your religion.

Rather than answering, Jesus stoops and traces his finger in the ground.  It is a silent response.  But it is not a silence that deflects or ignores the question.  It is a transfixing silence.  It deepens that impact of the question.  Everyone becomes aware of high the stakes are.  What does she think of his wordlessness?  Could this be what saves her?   Jesus has met a bloodthirsty mob and was about to defeat them.

He straightens up and says, “Let the one among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.”   He continues his silent tracing.  Beginning with the elders, the ones who know themselves best, who have experienced the mercy of God, they drop their stones and then walk away.  One by one they leave.  Jesus is alone with the woman. 

He straightens up again and looks right at her.   She was never a pawn to him.  He looks right at her, “Has no one condemned you?”  “No one sir.”  Now she is alone with the only one who could condemn her for he is the one who is without sin. He is the only one who can carry the stone of judgment.  He says, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and from now on, do not sin anymore.”

Let us hold onto to that image of the woman, aware that as we share in her sinfulness we share in Christ’s mercy.  Let me show you a trick that I can do because of God’s mercy.  Take a breath.  That breath was possible because of God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy.  And so is this breath and so is every breath I have ever taken and I every breath I will ever take.  There is not a moment in our life that is possible without the gift of God’s healing love. 

And if we are not aware that we are sinners; if we dismiss where we come from and what we have done, we are not drinking fully of God’s mercy.  We will not have the strength to go out in the sun with the power to sin more.  What did Pope Francis say when they asked him if he accepted his election as Pope. “Although I am a sinner, I do accept.”  Not surprising from a man who seems to constantly come back to theme of the tenderness of Christ’s mercy being the wellspring of all life.

See, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah,” I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”  It is why St.  Paul can say that having discovered God’s healing and forgiving love that turned him from a hater of Christ to a lover that everything else he considers rubbish. 

We can only be this new creation because we are aware of God’s mercy.  What good would this healing sunlight do for us if we insist on carrying around our own shadows?  It is only in light of divine grace, that ever renewing love of God that we can truly know we are blessed, healed, and forgiven and give a lie to all thoughts of violence, jealousy, ugliness and everything else that derives from  the smallest parts of our lives.  God’s tender mercies have unveiled a beautiful truth about us all.  No go out in to that sunshine, blessed and strong and sin no more.

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