5th Sunday of Lent, Year C, 16
Things are not always as simple as they at first appear to be. Today’s Gospel is a perfect example of a passage that has layers of meaning and application.
On the surface, this is apparently just another confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes with an adulterous woman caught in the crossfire. But, she is only a pawn. The Pharisees and scribes are not really concerned about her or her sin but about Jesus’ answer to their challenge. If he agrees with the Mosaic Law, he is in conflict with the Romans who forbade the Jews to pass or carry out a death sentence, and revealing that his mercy and compassion are limited. If he lets her go unpunished for this capital offense against the Mosaic Law, he will be seen as “soft on crime” and in conflict with his Jewish heritage. It seems to be a “no win” situation. But Jesus turned the tables by making the interpreters and keepers of the Law face their own sinfulness before passing judgment on someone else.
Perhaps because we consider our own sins minor, we can be quick to judge and condemn others. We may excuse our reckless and speedy driving habits but come down hard on someone else who is behaving exactly the same way! We can rant about abuses of the welfare system but fudge on our own income tax. All too often, it is not really a matter of right vs. wrong, but only of degree, isn’t it?
On another level today’s Gospel and last week’s about the prodigal son are about how the communities of (more or less) faithful believers are to respond to sinners.
For us, on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, there will likely be some here who are not usually present. How will we react? Will we be like the elder son of last weekend’s parable, angry and resentful because another whom we consider unworthy has taken our parking place and usual seat, thinking to ourselves: “How dare they!?” Will we self-righteously throw stones of judgment? Or will we be inviting, happy to share the beauty of our faith, creating an atmosphere to which the wanderer will want to return more often?
How can we do that? The very first step is to put down our stones and not be a hostile barrier between others and Jesus.