Fifth Sunday of Lent, 3rd April 2022

John 8:1–11

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.'

This story of adulteress is inspiring about God’s divine mercy and forgiveness. This incident of the merciful forgiveness of an adulteress by the Son of God has many lessons for all of us in this season of Lent as it was in AD 30.

We are all sinners in greater or lesser degree. We all offend the good God in many ways. However, thank God, we are not dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees as our judges, but with a God of mercy, a God who knows and understands our weaknesses and frailties. No matter how many and how serious our sins may have been, no matter how low we may have fallen, the mercy and forgiveness of God is ever there for the asking.

But ask we must and repent we must, for not even the omnipotent and all merciful God can take away from us the sin we want to keep. Who could be so foolish as not to accept the divine offer of mercy? Who could ever let his personal pride and selfishness put his own eternal happiness in jeopardy? There are probably people in hell, but if there are, it is not because of their sins that they are there. It is rather because they were too proud and too selfish to repent of them and ask God for his forgiveness.

Another lesson for all of us in today’s gospel is that we should try to imitate our divine Lord’s mercy by being more merciful and more compassionate towards sinners. Too many of us are inclined to judge too harshly and heartlessly the neighbour whose sins happen to become public, whilst we minimize our own failings because they are secret.

Remember: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Spreading scandal may, and often is, a more grievous sin than the fall of a neighbour which we tell about with gusto whilst pretending to be seriously disgusted with his moral failing.

Whilst we must hate sin in ourselves and others we must learn from our Lord to love the sinner even while disapproving of the sin. This love will be proved in part by our silence regarding his sin. Amen.