Sunday, March 13, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent: Do Not Cast Stones

Today's readings are about mercy and doing things in a new way.

The first reading recalls the events of the Exodus when the stubborn and arrogant pharaoh of Egypt went after the freed Hebrew slaves. He thought he could outsmart and defeat God, but was mistaken. His army perished in the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:4, Psalm 136:15).  The reading uses the imagery of this event to remind us that God makes paths for us even when we feel trapped.  For the Hebrews, standing near the water while the Egyptian army approached from the other end trapped them must have been terrifying.  How many times do we feel stuck with something in life?  In these and all cases, we must have faith in God.  God will part the waters that block us in life and open a path for us to go to Him (Proverbs 3:6).  God is always doing something new, as we are told. This links to the Gospel of today. As Pope Francis said, "God is not afraid of new things." God is good and does great things for us as we read in today's Psalm.

Once again, in the responsorial Psalm we recall the events of how God rescued His people. God freed His people and this freedom brought laughter and joy.  The people rejoiced and shared the great things God has done for them. We too, today, should share the things that God has done for us (1 Peter 3:15). Each one of us have our stories.  God always restores good things to us when we feel we have hit rock bottom, so to speak. Life is a struggle as we all know. We go forth weeping with the seed to sow but come back rejoicing after the work was completed in God's name.  Which brings us to the second reading where we are reminded that we have to loss everything for the sake of God.

We all know the Catholic mantra of "giving it up for Lent."  Unfortunately, many of us give up chocolate and other silly things thinking that is a real sacrifice.  What we really need to give up is our sinful ways, bad habits, disgusting personalities that bring discord and so forth.  St. Paul who wrote this letter while under captivity (Philippians 1:7,13) understood the value of detaching oneself from the things of this world. We must accept the loss of all things for the sake of Christ, in order to gain Christ and be found in Him as St. Paul did. The things of this world do not satiate.  This is why we see people who need to get the latest phone, sneakers, electronics etc. We see people use the gift of work just to please their desires instead of using their salary for their necessities (Isaiah 55:2). In the end, money is wasted on fashions, parties and other things that do not give joy.  Only Christ gives joy. This is a joy that never ends.  A joy that make it bearable for saints to suffer all kinds of trials and even torture and death (1 Corinthians 13:7). It is a joy that shows us that this world is not worth it. Our true home is with God (Philippians 3:20).  We must forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead and this is life with Christ Jesus which should be our ultimate and only goal in life.  To live in eternity with the ancient of days (Daniel 7:22); the one who is, was and always will be; the creator of all things seen and unseen, this is an awesome reward.  As a graduate of the sciences and philosophy, I cannot even fathom the idea of being beside the maker of all things.  I have so many questions.  That in itself is exciting to me to be able to be before the source of knowledge and wisdom, love and joy.

Finally in the Gospel, we read of how God does things in a new way. Jesus was at the Mount of Olives.  While there, people came to Him.  Among them were the scribes and Pharisees who brought a women to Jesus. This woman is unnamed but was caught in adultery. They tell Jesus that Moses' law calls for the woman and to be stoned or killed (Deuteronomy 22:22, Leviticus 20:10). The people complain to Jesus and did this in order to test Him. Since Jesus was preaching about love and mercy, they wanted to corner Him by using Scripture against Him.  However, Jesus wrote something on the ground which we are not told exactly what it was.  He then stands up and says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  Then he wrote on the ground again.  This 'writing' on the ground symbolizes that Jesus is writing down a new law, if you will (Matthew 5:17).  He is bringing a new interpretation to the old law.  By saying that the one who has no sin should throw the stone, He is showing that only God has the right to judge and execute, not man because man is a sinner.  The people could not condemn her any longer that is why Jesus asked her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  She replied, "No one, sir."  Jesus answers, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore."

Here we see the mercy of God. The woman sinned, but she was forgiven.  However, Jesus tells her to go and NOT sin anymore. His forgiveness was not license for her to continue sinning. Some today use this Gospel reading to attack Christians for speaking out against abortion and so-called same-sex marriage.  They tell us not to judge and that we are sinners and should not cast the stone, so to speak. While they are partially correct, they leave out the part where Jesus says not to sin anymore.  Yes Jesus forgives, but He does not endorse sinful lifestyles. Once forgiven, we must make a change.  During this Lent and year of Mercy, we must make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; hear Jesus tell us to go sin no more and do as He says.  Let us share God's mercy to all, avoid judgments and meet people where they are at. May Jesus be praised!


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