Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent ©, April 7th, 2019:
The newness of life in God’s kingdom includes this incredible portrayal of Jesus’s mercy. In that way, this gospel reading is as beautiful as last Sunday’s gospel of “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:1-3,11-32).
The important point from today’s gospel is that Jesus is introducing a new covenant to the Scribes and Pharisees. This “new covenant” is what God promised through the prophet Jeremiah: “See, the days are coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master….But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days….I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people”(Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly. He refers their question to their own hearts and souls. Jesus turned on the judgmental Scribes and Pharisees the discomfort of their own hypocrisy. They can neither judge nor punish because they know that they are sinners. Their own consciences accuse them. Jesus sets aside the Law, which the Scribes and Pharisees hold up as the ultimate code of conduct. When He asks her “Has no one condemned you?”(John 8:10), she answers, “No one, sir”(John 8:11). Then, Jesus will not condemn her either. But Jesus does condemn the sin and forgives her of it. He tells her to “Go, and from now on do not sin any more”(John 8:11). This story illustrates forgiveness of sins for baptized Christians.
This is the importance of living in Christ by faith. Our values change completely. Righteousness comes from God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So therefore, placing our faith in Jesus Christ gives us salvation, not a self-gained righteousness by observing the Mosaic Law. Remember that the Scribes and Pharisees want to destroy Jesus’s credibility with the people. They want to sever the people’s allegiance to Jesus. So they sense an opportunity by placing this adulterous woman before Him, in front of a crowd. They hope Jesus will treat her leniently and scandalize Himself in their eyes. They would think Jesus would disobey the Mosaic Law. Instead, Jesus ignores their trap and goes deeper, into their souls. Then the Scribes and Pharisees expose their own hypocrisy by dropping their stones on a pile, and walking away. They won’t stone her because they morally cannot.
The Scribes and Pharisees, and the people who listen to and follow Jesus, are asking themselves this question: Is Jesus the completely unique Son of the Father, with a relationship so close that He and the Father become identical in will, word, and work? And, can and should Jesus be referred to as the divine “I am”? Is Jesus God? Jesus is telling the Scribes and Pharisees and the people following Him that the Father has sent Him. Jesus indicates His divine origin and His obedience and subservience to God, His Father. The Pharisees, Scribes, and religious leaders cannot accept that. This will cost Jesus His life. He knows it too. But the price of this degree of forgiveness and mercy from God will be His death to be followed by His resurrection. St. Paul writes that salvation means participation in the power of Christ’s resurrection and a sharing in Christ’s suffering and becoming like Him in death. This means death to our sinfulness. This too, is part of the newness of life offered to us in Christ’s kingdom.
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