Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lent, 5th Sunday - homily

We all have one burning question after hearing this Gospel about the woman caught in adultery. We all want to know one thing, and can’t seem to ever get an answer. Whenever we hear this story, we all are dying to know…what did Jesus write on the ground?! It is unbelievable. I was talking with a friend the other night, telling her how amazing this Gospel story is. You have this great encounter between the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees and scribes want to stone her, and…she interrupts me to say, “But, Father, what did Jesus write on the ground?”

So, I studied up on this question this week. I looked high and low, studying, researching, analyzing what the scholars have said. I finally can give you answer. I don’t know! No clue! No one knows, nor will we ever know, until Heaven, probably. No, I actually did find that the answer is that Jesus probably wrote nothing in the ground. He was probably just tracing figures in the ground because he was so bored and tired with the games and tests of the Pharisees and scribes. If you all had pens or pencils and paper, it’s probably what you’d be doing during my homilies!

This is an amazing Gospel story. We can put ourselves in the place of the woman caught in adultery in order to understand her situation, and see that there are some similarities and differences with our own situations. First, imagine that you had committed the worst sin you can think of, and everyone knew it! We try so hard to keep our major faults and sins from others; everyone knew the woman had committed adultery. And, it was one of the most serious sins, if not the most serious, at that time. There she is, in a public arena, with everyone looking at her with condemnation. But, Jesus very quickly makes it a private affair, and essentially telling all those who want to stone her that they should put down their stones, and walk away. He does the same thing for us with Confession: it is a private matter between us and Jesus.

This woman is humiliated, she is embarrassed. She feels very small. It is humiliating to acknowledge or to be acknowledged of serious sin. It is humiliating to go to Confession and admit what we’ve done wrong. But, for her and for us, the humiliation lasts only a few moments. And, now, this woman is exalted for all time! Like many other sinners to whom Jesus reached out, her story is recalled by the Church in the cycle of readings. This is one of the things that is “new” which God promises in today’s first reading: sinners, and those who are lowly will be shown mercy. Jesus tells us many times that those who are humbled will be exalted, and those who are exalted will be humbled.

She is on death row, this woman. She is about to be killed for her sins. It’s capital punishment. But, Jesus steps in and saves her. If it weren’t for Jesus, she would have been killed. He gives us the Sacrament of Confession to save us. He steps in so that we won’t be sent to spiritual death row. If we don’t go to Confession, we are on spiritual death row.

In my seminary training, this Gospel was a model for how to hear Confessions. Each time I hear a Confession, I use this as the model. To see how Jesus dealt with this woman, saying to her, “I don’t condemn you, but go and sin no more”. I’ve told you before I’m open for Confession 24/7 which means I am always here to offer you, not condemnation, but mercy. This woman experienced it: the power of God’s Mercy. She is a new person after her encounter with Mercy. The person coming out of Confession experiences this newness, too. It's God's Mercy– it's "new", and it’s awesome! I want to offer you His Mercy always.

Finally, in the words of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, we are to get “small” for Jesus. The woman from the Gospel gets small for Jesus. Next Friday -Good Friday- we will celebrate when Jesus got small for us. He was humiliated and embarrassed in his Passion and Death. When we come to Mass, we not only remember that he got small for us, we see him continue to get small for us. He gets about this big (the size of a small host) in the form of bread…he gets small so that he can come inside of us. He shows us the example that getting small in this life is key to being exalted in the next life.

There is a reward to being humbled. Christ himself has been exalted for his earthly humiliation. The woman who was humbled received the immediate reward of Mercy, and has now been exalted. Anyone who was humiliated for a few moments in Confession is rewarded with God’s Love and Mercy, and is exalted for all eternity. When we come to Mass and humble ourselves by kneeling in God’s presence, we are rewarded with the Eucharist - the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Whatever ways that we experience temporary humiliation for God in this life will be rewarded with exaltation for all eternity.


At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but what about those people who always seem to need to go to confession all the time they arn't going and sinning no more they keep sinning why do we keep letting them back to the sacraments back to the church they need to learn to control themselves

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr G-
can you give some more info about what a penance service is? You mentioned it today, but I'd like some more info.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Greg—

This is a beautiful piece of reading...simply beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how amazing confession does feel when you sincerely enter with humbleness in your heart. There are often moments when I feel embarrassed about not being patient enough with my children or in the grocery line/traffic/etc., or when I’ve been too quick to judge another human being. I’ll mention these moments to my husband and am always comforted by his first reaction, “Believe me, we are all sinners in the presence of God.” It helps because it makes me realize that I’m not the only one who fails in some capacity even though I do try to sin no more. But the wonder of it all is that we do experience mercy every single time we truly seek God’s forgiveness.

My husband and I were chatting about Fr. Mike’s homily today and we were pleased that he spoke about capital punishment. Sometimes in such divisive political times, it is important to mediate on what our Catholic faith teaches us. Recently, one of my students asked me what I believed about capital punishment. I responded, “It is very wrong. But I definitely had to make a big trip to the box after I was pleased about Saddam Hussein’s hanging.” It’s not easy for any of us to walk the walk, but it is nice to know that there’s a way to receive God’s grace when we inevitably fail.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note:

My dad always falls asleep during Mass what should I do? To make it even more embarrassing he snores!

P.S. We don't go to the early Mass.

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Kat said...


Great homily today!

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous rudyard kipling said...

Mother o' Mine

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

Rudyard Kipling

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon #1,

Going to confession helps the sinner to grow in holiness. It by no means, makes them no longer a sinner! Hopefully they will sin less and avoid mortal sins due to the graces received from confession. Yet we are always sinners!

Example: I go to confession and pray and try to be a good follower of Christ. Well tonight I blew it - my kids were rude (as in they belched really loud at dinner) and then laughed their heads off. They have been warned not to do this! So my husband out some pretty tough restrictions (again they keep doing this&have been warned). Well I lost my temper, said and thought some to say the least unkind things. We had just come from Mass (2 hours before). I already need to go to confession after that scene.

So you see, how can we say we are no longer sinners especially since we are human?

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous sinner said...

We have to go more than once a month? Ah, man!

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anon who has a dad who falls asleep in Mass: Hit Starbucks before Mass. If he can handle it go for the triple espresso. Maybe he just is too relaxed during Mass and needs a little caffeine. Maybe a triple is too much! LOL.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous embarrassed said...


I'll try it.

Thanks for the tip.

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Sinner said...

Please don't laugh at this question. How do you get over the fact that you are a sinner? I haven't thought of myself as one until recently and its a yucky feeling.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In previous posts some talked about feeling judged and/or unwanted. Although we can be pretty certain we won't be stoned as the woman in the reading would have been, others' judgements do hurt us, sometimes quite deeply. I found it interesting that the following are a few of the defitions of the word "catholic":

–adjective 1. broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded; liberal.
2. universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.
3. pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger fran said...

"How do you get over the fact that you are a sinner?"

This is from "The Magnificat Lenten Companion," Wednesday, March 28th.

"The only remedy for sin is developing a strong filial relationship with God. Lent offers a time of grace to deepen one's love for the heavenly Father. Our love for God grows deep the more we remain closely united with his only Son. The only way to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ is to embrace everything that his Church teaches and offers, especially the Eucharist. Then we have everything."

And from today's gospel reading John 8:31-42

"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

So, perhaps the answer is not in knowing how to "get over being a sinner," - rather it is in developing a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the Sacraments which will in turn allow his grace and love to flood or lives. Our thoughts, our words and our actions become more Christ-centered, our relationship with Jesus is deepened and although we remain sinners,(maybe less of a sinner? if there is such a thing...) our focus turns from ourselves to Him. How fulfilling that will be!


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