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Sin No More
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. 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. So what do you say?”
They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, as I pray my way through this Lenten season, please give me the grace to live my resolutions well, and help me, as I reflect on these words, to draw light and inspiration from them for my day.
- What Authority? The Pharisees exercised their authority over others by merciless recrimination. Christ reached out to others with compassion and mercy. The Pharisees saw authority as a means to banish a sinner from society. Christ seeks the lost and returns him or her to the sheepfold. In this Gospel, the adulterous woman was about to be stoned for her sin, but Jesus put a stop to the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and, with a warning to sin no more, sent the woman off to begin anew. He perfectly exemplified authority, compassion, and mercy. We are called to imitate him in our dealings with others.
- Twice Abused: This woman had been used by a man for his own purposes. And now that she had been caught, the Pharisees were also using her to entrap Jesus and find a reason to condemn him. As she lay in the dust at the feet of Our Lord, were her mind, heart, and soul hopeless? Had she resigned herself to a slow death by stoning? Did she feel that she deserved it? Any interior darkness was likely banished when Jesus addressed her: “Woman.” An encounter with Christ, the light of the world, never fails to uplift and transform even hardened sinners.
- Christ Forgives: Christ looked at this woman with infinite love and tenderness. He looked into her heart and forgave her. He returned this woman’s freedom and dignity to her with the invitation to sin no more. He does the same for us with each reception of the sacrament of reconciliation. How blessed we are to have access to the transformative power of the sacraments.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I see that you are willing to forgive much, and I too want that same forgiveness. Forgive me my trespasses and help me to forgive those who trespass against me with the same compassion and mercy you exemplified in this Gospel.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an effort to forgive a person against whom I hold a grudge.
For Further Reflection: Prayer for the Forgiveness of Sins
O Lord, Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior, forgive my sins, just as you forgave Peter’s denial and those who crucified you. Count not my transgressions, but, rather, my tears of repentance. Remember not my iniquities, but, more especially, my sorrow for the offenses I have committed against you. I long to be true to your word, and pray that you will love me and come to make your dwelling place within me. I promise to give you praise and glory in love and in service all the days of my life.
Father Joshua West is a Legionary of Christ priest serving as chaplain at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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