5th Sunday Of Lent Year C
Theme of the week: God offers us salvation through his mercy.
The central message of this week’s Scripture centres on God’s deliverance. The First Readings was written with the historical context of the exile of the Jews to Babylon. As in Egypt, the Jews were again suffering in a foreign land, and they cried out to God for deliverance. Ever faithful to his people, God promised them a Second Exodus, where the people may once again return to their homeland. The passage recalled the First Exodus, when God’s fulfilled his covenant with Abraham by leading the people to the Promised Land. Once again, God is going to fulfil his covenant with his people, and lead them back to the Promised Land.
The life of Paul is a story of God’ deliverance. Before his conversion, Paul was a Pharisee, a strict observer of the Law and a persecutor of Christians. In the Second Reading, Paul compared his life as a Pharisee with his life as a Christian. As a Christian, Paul acknowledged that he did not have “a righteousness of [his] own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith” (verse 9). Paul realised the mistake of his past; when he thought he could earn salvation by observation of the law. Indeed, none of us can earn our salvation. Salvation is a free gift, earned for us by Christ through his suffering. Our righteous living is our response to this priceless gift. Our righteousness is never a mean of earning our salvation. This does not mean righteous living is easy. Indeed, living a life of faith can take a great deal of effort – even for a great man like Paul. Paul likened this to a race, and in the spirit of humility and repentance, he admitted that he still has a long way to go before reaching the end of that race, when he will receive the ultimate prize – salvation (verse 13-14).
The Gospel tells the story of the adulterous woman. In the story, the Scribes and Pharisees presented Jesus a woman who has committed adultery, in order to trap him. If Jesus agreed to their ancient practice of stoning the woman to death, he would have contradicted his own teaching of forgiveness and mercy. On the other hand, if Jesus spared the woman, he would have violated the law of Moses. In response, Jesus posed a challenge to those who wanted to stone the woman: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (verse 7) This is a challenge to the Scribes and Pharisees as it is to you and me: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37). No one did cast a stone. Ironically, of all present, Jesus is the only sinless one – He alone is fit to judge, punish and therefore cast the first stone. Instead, Jesus forgave the woman: “Neither do I condemn you.” (verse 11) What is also notable is that unlike many of us when we sin, the woman did not deny her sin, downplay its significance or claim that she was the victim of a false accusation. Instead, she willingly acknowledged her sin (verse 11). In spite of her sin, there is much you and I can learn from this woman.
In showing the woman God’s mercy, Jesus went further yet, He offered her salvation: “from now on do not sin again” (verse 11). This is the response required of us. In response to God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must try not to sin again. It is with such contrite heart that we must always approach the Lord when seeking mercy.
Let us conclude this week’s reflection by contemplating on God’s mercy: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” (Lk 6:36-38)
May the Lord’s peace be with you always.