Read Isaiah 43:16-21, Ps. 126, Phil. 3:8-14, John 8:1-11

“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” (John 8:4-5)

The Scribes and Pharisees were already discussing among themselves how to kill Jesus. They seemed to have found a perfect opportunity to “use one stone to kill two birds” when they brought the woman caught in adultery to him. They were hoping to catch Jesus by his words but their plans failed. Let us consider the lessons contained in today’s readings

1. Be Careful of Those who Quote the Bible Wrongly

Leviticus 20 verse 10 reads: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” Why did these men leave out the man? This simply tells us how blind we become in our attempt to condemn others. Be careful of self-righteous people who claim to know the entire Bible off-heart yet their hearts are far from God. No wonder Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”, a bunch of hypocrites whose spirituality was simply to attract attention to themselves. Read the Bible for yourself, as we saw in the temptations of Jesus, the bible itself can be misinterpreted

2. Never be Too Quick to Respond

Jesus teaches us an important lesson in today’s Gospel passage; the importance of meditation and prayer before responding. Those who come to us to discuss the faults and limitations of others are not our true friends. No one would have ever imagined that they brought this woman to Jesus not because they hated adultery but to trap Jesus and catch him by his words. Be careful of those who gossip about others because you never can tell if you are their main target.

I believe Jesus started writing on the ground with his finger as a way of buying time for some reflection and prayer. It is always best to say a prayer no matter how short before answering questions. Call for God’s help because you never know who is who.

3. First Take Out the Log in Your Eye

Why is it is so difficult to examine our own conscience but we are busy all day analyzing, judging, and dissecting other people? After spending some time praying, Jesus correctly discerned that this was a trap. If Jesus had said: “stone her” they would describe Him as heartless. If Jesus had simply said: “do not stone her” he would have been considered an enemy of the tradition. Somehow, Jesus found a way of responding without falling into any trap. Jesus said: “Let him who has not sinned be the first to cast a stone at her.” This was a moment of truth!

For the first time in their entire lives, they were forced to do an examination of conscience and we are told that beginning with the oldest, they dropped their stones one by one and walked away. Examination of conscience is to the soul what a regular medical check-up is to the body. If we don’t do it regularly, we die. The more we examine our own hearts, the less judgmental we are to others and the more likely we would succeed at winning souls.

4. Go and Sin No More; Keep Striving for Perfection

Jesus asked the woman: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.” God hates Sin but no amount of sin reduces His Love for us. God weeps for us when we choose to sin but rejoices like the Prodigal Father when we repent. God is not interested in meting out punishment for our sins. Rather, God looks forward always to salvation. 

The essence of being a Christian according to St. Paul is simply striving for perfection. Note that based on our own efforts, we can never achieve this perfection. We are constantly in need of help from above. Having tried and failed St. Paul confesses: “I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts… but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 4:9)

5. No Matter What My Past Has Been, I can Begin Anew

God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Each of us has a past. You may see yourself as a desert, God is saying, I will make rivers flow from you. You may have gone deep in sin, yet God is saying: “my child, you can still be a Saint.”

The God who called a murderer and changed his name from Saul to Paul is the same God we serve. Even St. Paul himself tells us in today’s second reading: “All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain for what lies ahead; I race for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us.” Forget the past. Rise, change, repent, go and sin no more!

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the courage to cut off my ties with the past, the wisdom to leave sin behind and the grace strive for perfection daily. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. (5th Sunday of Lent. Bible Study: Isaiah 43:16-21, Ps. 126, Phil. 3:8-14, John 8:1-11).

© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu