Forgiving Compassionate Love

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily April 7, 2019

“The scripture readings that we have on this fifth Sunday of Lent are ones that invite us to a time of reflection and meditation and personal prayer.  That reading of St. Paul from the letter the Philippians today is such a piece of deep theology as Paul reflects upon the whole mystery of our salvation and what it means to be grasped by Christ, but also to be in possession of Christ and his resurrection.  Paul says very very clearly that we are justified not by the works of the old law, the Mosaic Law, but rather we are made right with God through our faith in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the one who has brought about justification and we are one with Christ through our faith in Him, but Paul also says that we’re still in process with this.  He says, ‘I don’t yet possess the fullness of life in Christ Jesus and therefore I strain forward.’ And so there is that whole process of our own spirituality, our own spiritual growth as we seek to truly live in the spirit of Christ that we may share in the fullness of salvation in the gift of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and Paul even gives us the way to that.  It’s the paschal mystery. It’s the dying and the rising of Christ Jesus. It’s our own call to join our sufferings as Paul mentions with the very sufferings of Jesus that we are called to die to sin, to selfishness in our daily lives and to live ever more fully even now that risen life in Christ that ultimately we may live it in its fullness. I invite you to take that reading from the Philippians today and to meditate upon that in terms of your own spirituality for certainly the paschal mystery that we’re going to be celebrating during the Triduum of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is at the very heart of our faith in Christ and it is the method of our own spirituality that all of us are on that journey of dying to sin and of rising to greater life.

In the Gospel today, Jesus doesn’t give us theology so much as he gives us pastoral wisdom.  Jesus is there teaching. They bring in the woman accused of adultery and they said, ‘Moses told us that we should stone such a person.  What do you say?’ One of the questions that comes to my mind is where the guy is in this thing? There’s a real injustice right there and that’s what Jesus is kind of referring to in this.  He knows that he can’t contradict Moses and so he undercuts Moses is what he does because he doesn’t say, ‘Oh Moses was wrong’ because to say Moses was wrong was absolute death in those days.  It was to be rejected. It was to be condemned and so he doesn’t say Moses was wrong. Instead he just leans over and starts writing on the ground and we don’t know what he was writing. I wish the scriptures woulda said what he was writing.  Was he writing out a list of sins? Doing an examination of conscience for everybody around? Or was he writing the names of people on the ground? We don’t know what it is, but obviously it had an impact and then he says, ‘The one of you without sin, throw the first stone.’  In reading the scriptures, it’s helpful for us to identify with different personalities within the scriptures to see ourselves in light of those individuals. We may see ourselves in light of the woman caught in adultery for we know our own sin. We know the times that we have compromised who we are in relationship to God and others and therefore we may identify with that woman seeking the forgiveness of God or we may identify with the crowd that just kind of stood there, stood around and was just kinda judgemental in their own mind or else we might be able to identify with the ones who picked up the stones who were all ready to stone her to death.  We can identify because we can people who are critical who judge others who could look down or condemn others or we might identify ourselves with Jesus who spoke with compassion, with forgiveness, who was not willing to condemn, but rather to convert and so each of us is invited to say, ‘where am I in this picture?’ and maybe the fact is we are two or three persons within that picture and that is okay to know that we are there though in one way or another and we are called especially to reflect that love of Christ, yes, to know the forgiveness of Christ, but the love of Christ and it’s important for us to realize that Jesus and the woman are there and Jesus says, ‘I’m not going to condemn you.’  That’s what he says to us in confession. Every time we go to confession Jesus says, ‘I’m not going to condemn you. I’m going to forgive you’ and how important it is for us to seek that forgiveness of Christ to be humble enough to say, ‘Yes I need the Lord’s forgiveness.’  But Jesus there does not say, ‘Oh honey, you’re just a human being. Don’t worry about it, you have your weakness and that’s okay. Go out and live your life.’ No, he doesn’t say that and he doesn’t say that to us either. He says to the woman, ‘Go and sin no more.’ And that’s what he says to us.  Go and sin no more. Reject sin. Embrace goodness. Embrace love.  We are invited to enter more deeply into this relationship with Christ Jesus knowing that Christ’s forgiveness is there for each and every one of us and that we are called to be Christ to others with forgiving, compassionate, love.”