March 25, 2007: Fifth Sunday of Lent


The Gospel reading [John 8:1-11] relates one of the more famous episodes in the Bible:

…but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to [H]im, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery…

The last two verses, after the woman’s accusers had drifted away, are:

Jesus looked up and said to her, “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.”

We misunderstand these verses when we use them to claim that God forgives in an unqualified way. Jesus forgave often in the Gospel. He forgave those who showed true repentance. When the young rich man walked away after Jesus told him to give up all His wealth for the sake of his salvation, we’re left in doubt as to whether that young man would be saved despite the testimony that he was a truly good fellow. He had refused the Lord’s offer of salvation at that acceptable moment. Would he later repent and follow Jesus? Would he be saved despite his lack of courage in going the full way? After all, we are led to believe he was a good man. We just don’t know.

In this story of the adulteress, we’re not told specifically that she repented but we hear the command of the Lord Jesus Christ: Do not sin again. That’s not a small demand. And it’s one that very few meet, including those on their way to sainthood. But He didn’t give her a choice. We can believe He did give her the strength to live up to this extraordinary demand.

While we have to be careful not to be self-righteous and not to assume God’s power to condemn or save, we have to be careful of a false tolerance which might grease the ramp down to damnation for the sinner and for those vulnerable souls he might influence. We should pray for the salvation of those in willful states of sin and those in states of apathy, but St. Paul told us:

If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look upon him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. [2 Thess 3: 14-15]

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Peace of Christ, Religion

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