What a gift to have such harmonious readings for this week! The Old and New Testament readings clearly pave the way for the great act of mercy in John’s account of the woman caught in adultery. We read phrases like, “remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” from Isaiah and, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize. . . Christ Jesus” from St. Paul. Both passages encourage us not to be tied to the past, not to be weighted down by sin. God can make us new again. In Joel, which provides the verse before the Gospel, we hear: “even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.” In this passage, God’s mercy is spelled out clearly. He is not full of wrath and judgment, but of mercy and forgiveness.
After verses such as these, we shouldn’t be surprised at Jesus’s reaction to the woman caught in adultery. There is no question IF she has sinned or not, for she has been caught in the very act of adultery. The question is only what her punishment should be. Will Jesus choose strict justice according to the Jewish law, or will he reject the law and allow her to go free? Either way, the scribes and pharisees are ready to turn his decision against him. But Christ evades their trap and chooses the third way: go ahead and stone her for her crime, he tells them. Let the sinless one among you throw the first stone.
And so, “…they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.” Once they had left, Jesus asked the woman: “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 anymore.”
With that, a woman, who has committed a very grave sin, becomes like new. Jesus has saved her life but, more importantly, he has saved her soul. She is no longer weighed down by her past life. Her adultery no longer defines who she is. She is a new creation. She has encountered Divine Mercy in the flesh and has been given a second chance.
So it is with us, dear sisters! We, too, no matter how big or small our past sins, can have a second chance. Like the woman, Christ calls to us – especially in the sacrament of reconciliation – to return to him, to unburden ourselves, and to be made new again. I hope you will join me this Lenten season in partaking of the grace that awaits each one of us in that beautiful sacrament. Whether it has been two weeks, two months, two years. . . or twenty years since you last went to confession, there is no better time than this Lent to forget the past and to be made new. Then, we can sing, along with the Psalmist: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”