Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection March 18, 2024


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R/. Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, no evil would I fear, for you are with me.

V/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

V/. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

At that time: Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

1.      One grievous malaise of our society is the spirit of judgment, accusation, and condemnation. Many are so eager to judge, accuse and condemn others so unjustly, uncharitably, and disproportionately. A sense of righteousness and morality is good and needed. Certainly, we cannot take lightly the wrongs or justify them. A permissive tendency to allow and even glorify the immoral is another extreme.

2.      But the whole problem is a spirit of double standards, one for oneself and the other for others. People become so lenient and indulgent towards their own wrongs but so exacting and condemning towards others. They rashly and severely condemn others but conveniently and hypocritically condone themselves. They label others as sinners while they project themselves as saints.

3.      The people of Jesus’ time especially the Pharisees and scribes were this type. They impose and apply rigid laws over others but are evasive toward themselves. They catch a woman in adultery and present her to Jesus to sentence her to death by stoning as per the law. Their intention was very clear. It was not because they wanted Jesus’ judgment but rather to trap him.

4.      The law is very clear and if Jesus adheres to it, then they can question his clamour for mercy. How can he preach so much about mercy and compassion but say, stone her to death? But if he says, let her not be punished but be left free, then they can blame him for defying the law. How can he breach the law but claim himself to be a religious man which is essentially law-abiding? In either case, Jesus will be caught on the wrong foot.

5.      Jesus states “Let the one who has no sin throw the first stone”. What divine wisdom! What a condescending mercy of God! The point here is not permissibility toward sin. Jesus in no way shields sin or dilutes its gravity. If it were so, Jesus would not directly ask the adulterous woman, “sin no more”. He does not tell the people, It is okay, leave her; he does not also directly defend her, questioning, who does not have sin.

6.      He directly appeals to their inner conscience. He urges them to self-focus and self-discovery. He confronts their mentality of double standards. He puts them in the face with their own sinfulness and thus their own culpability. They are so eager to punish the woman. But what about themselves? Do they not look at themselves? Do they not think of their own sin that deserves similar punition?

7.      Jesus brings to light forcefully the unconditioned mercy of God that goes beyond measures. He is a God who does not count the quantity of our wrongdoing. Sin may abound but His mercy superabounds. He is a God who promises through the prophet Isaiah 43. 16-21: Behold, I am doing a new thing; I will make a way and give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people.

8.      God is offering the bounty of His mercy and invites us not to sin anymore from now on. So what does this imply? As God says through the prophet: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Do not be weighed down by the faulty past. Start anew.

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