Fifth Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 43: 16-21; Philippians 3: 8-14; John 8: 1-11
“Go in peace and sin no more.”
We know this scripture story well. The people who gathered in the temple area expected to witness a stoning, not an act of redemption. The nameless woman expected to be killed, but is set free instead. Hate against Jesus and his message is palpable in this passage, but in Jesus the woman found a friend, someone who forgave her past, who respected her, who did not condemn her.
Jesus and his unconditional love left it to the woman to become a new person. We have this unique opportunity for newness each day. As we approach the end of Lent, may we claim this same gift of liberation and offer God’s all-inclusive love to others.
The following poem, written by Irene Zimmerman in Women Un-Bent, reminds us that we are challenged to be God’s love and forgiveness each day. Jesus does not give up on us. We are called not to give up on each other.
From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet
as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,
without looking up from his writing on the ground,
that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.
The woman stood where they’d shoved her,
her hair hanging loose over neck and face,
her hands still shielding her head from the stones she awaited.
“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”
The heap of woman shuddered unfolded.
She viewed the courtyard—empty now—
with wild, glazed eyes, and turned back to him.
“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.
Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.
He thought of his mother—had she known such fear?—
and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.
Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided
his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed
swelling up with seed not his own.
“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.
“Go your way and sin no more.”
Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,
empty, uncomprehending. Then life rushed back.
She stood before him like a blossoming tree.
“Go in peace and sin no more,”
Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.
He has bought her at a price, he knew.
The stony hearts of her judges
would soon hurl their hatred at him.
His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.
Sister Mary Ann Collins, OP