Lent is hard work. It is a time of continual spiritual evaluation--a long and continuous examination of conscience. Today we continue that hard work, but the goal of Lent--dying to ourselves in Christ and rising with Him on Easter Sunday--is coming nearer.
Today's readings for mass are found here.
More to follow later today . . . .
I have tried to spend the day, in the bit of quiet time that I had, considering the Lord's words to the woman in the Gospel story. My mind wants to focus on what our Lord wrote on the ground as the scribes and the Pharisees tried to trap him with their questions. But, putting that aside, the image that keeps returning to me is one of love. Love is what Christ has for all of humanity--so much so that He humbled Himself to take on a fleshly life and die a cruel and painful death for our salvation, overcoming the power of death by His resurrection. The woman caught in adultery is no different from any of us living today--no different from me. She is loved by Christ, so He forgives her and admonishes her to sin no more. I wonder if this is why Christ answered the scribes and Pharisees like He did? Certainly our Lord saw that the scribes and Pharisees did not want to stone the woman out of love for her. And, certainly He, Himself, did not condemn her for her actions. But, Christ loved the woman. So, the action borne out of love--forgiveness--is what ultimately triumphs.
However, Jesus also did not affirm the woman in her sinful actions either. He did not say: "That's okay, everyone falls sometime." He did not say to her: "A little adultery, as long as everyone consented and no one got hurt, is okay, so I am not going to condemn you." What Christ did say is:
“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."We cannot know the mind of Christ, nor the heart of the woman, in that moment. But, what an awesome moment! The Lord God made flesh, Jesus the Christ, turns to the sinful woman and relents in His love, admonishing her to "not sin any more." It must be that Christ saw in that woman all that was necessary to give her forgiveness in that moment. Thank the Lord that Jesus Christ is a Messiah of mercy. Praise the Lord for the abundant generosity that he shows to each of us for not condemning us in our sin. No one of us would survive if He did.
I pray that each of us will have a heart, when we meet Christ face-to-face, that merits (to the extent that we are able to strive for such a merit) forgiveness too.
However, let us also be cautious that we do not treat the Lord's blessings as a license. The Lord's mercy is a gift that we need because we are all fallen. However, His mercy is not a permission slip to engage in whatever behavior that each of thinks, each in our own right, is acceptable or appropriate. We should not insult our Lord's mercy and tempt its depth by intentionally protesting in our sin after His mercy has been showered upon us through our payer and through the sacraments. Certainly each of us will fall. Certainly each of us suffers from particular sins that are more difficult to detach ourselves from because of habit or circumstance or our own particular weaknesses. But, we must strive to continue to live in communion with the Word, to truly be Christlike in our life--the call to all Christians--and to live in obedience to the Church, the bride of Christ and the body of Christ on earth. In our effort to live according to Christ and the dictates of the Church, despite our failings, is the opportunity for Christ's mercy to be showered upon us the greatest.
We must live a right life and pray, despite our sin. (As Father Corapi says: "The most important time to pray is when you do not want to pray.")
And, too, the Gospel today tells each of us how to respond to the sins of others. While we are not called to affirm others in their sinful actions,we are called to always stand ready to be merciful and offer our love to all, despite their sin. To love each other is the call of Christ. Let us do so, we pray, with the heart of Christ.
Pray that each of us will be an instrument of God's mercy in the world!