Mercy

posted 3/30/20

The gospel for today’s Mass is the Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11).  Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, who is teaching in the Temple area in Jerusalem.  They try to test Him, wanting to know if He will make a judgment in accord with the law of Moses, which prescribed a penalty of death by stoning to those caught in the act of adultery.  In response to their demands for an answer, the Lord says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  In response, the gospel says that “they departed one by one, beginning with the elders.” 

The Lord helps us to see that we should not be so eager for the condemnation of sinners, since all of us fall into that category.  It is more fitting to pray for the conversion of sinners.  But there, too, we should take care not to lose sight of our personal need for conversion.  It’s an odd effect of Original Sin that we see the need for the conversion of others more clearly than our own.  In the end of the passage it is only the one who acknowledged her guilt before the Lord who heard the words of mercy.  ‘“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?” She replied “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”’ 

In the gospel, sinners present a sinner to Christ for judgment.  The guilty bring the guilty to Him for condemnation.  In the sacrament of Confession, we the guilty present ourselves before the Lord, deserving of condemnation.  Alone, with no one else to condemn us but our own burdened consciences, we receive clemency and forgiveness.  Would that those who brought the woman to be condemned, with the realization of the truth, did not walk away but instead cast themselves at the feet of the Lord – weighed down not with stones to throw but with the burden of their sins to confess.  Like her they might have known the relief and the joy of souls absolved from their sins, washed clean in the mercy of Christ. 

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