Gospel John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “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 any more.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! The work of St Patrick is legendary, waging a war against sin and creating a stronghold for the catholic church in Ireland. But what is sin, exactly? Is it something that we do that is bad or wrong? Sort of. Sin is anything that we do that separates us from God.
Does anyone remember what original sin is? Remember when Satan tempted Eve in the Garden? Then Eve tempted Adam. That certainly put in a big rift between God and his people. Eating the fruit was not the sin, but by eating the fruit they disobeyed God and separated themselves from that love. That is sin. When Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden and were cursed to endure pain and suffering and death. That sin, that separation from God, was passed down to all of us. We all have carried the burden of Original Sin.
Our first reading today from Isaiah is quite a prophesy. Like all prophets he sounds a bit cryptic, but in reality, he is being very clear and to the point. It sounds so cryptic because he can’t just say God. There were so many prophets proclaiming a god of one type or another or even multiple gods. He wanted to make it clear that he was speaking of the God of the Israelites. The God that led their people out of Egypt. But his prophesy does not speak of God delivering them from their current Babylonian oppression. It goes far into the future. It tells those who would listen that God will be changing from an angry, vengeful god and become a kinder, gentler god. A god that people will love, not fear. Isaiah is telling his people and is telling us to forget about the past. Forget the actions of that angry vengeful god and look to the future to see the marvels that God will do for us. He is telling us that God will no longer be separate from us, because he will be sending us Jesus, to be one with us, among us, and we will praise him for this.
Now we come to Paul. Long suffering Paul. We are blessed to have so many of his writings preserved in the New Testament. Of course most of his writings are to the many early Christian communities and they tend to focus on what they are doing wrong. Jesus had only recently risen in Glory, but there was growing unrest among the people that want to follow the teachings of Christ. All of these groups kept losing their way and straying from the path of Jesus. That’s why Paul had to write so many letters. In this particular letter, Paul is reminding the squabbling Philippians and us that he has given up everything of value in his life so that he can strive to be as Christ like as possible. He struggled every day to follow Christ’s example because he wanted to share in the Resurrection. He knew he would not achieve perfection, but he struggled for it none the less. Progress, not perfection, is what Christ asked of him and asks of us. Strive to do good works. Strive to make the world around you a little better. One person cannot change everything, but one person can make a difference. That is progress. And like many of us, as much as Paul wants to be in Heaven with Jesus, he is not quite ready to go now.
In our gospel, we get to see where the legacy of the angry vengeful god and Isaiah’s prophesy of the kind, forgiving, skin on god meet. The skin on god. I like the image of that. I like the idea of not just figuratively walking in Christ’s footsteps but actually following the man himself. Jesus spent a lot of time at the temple teaching and of course this did not enthuse the temple leaders. They started plotting and scheming and were determined to find a way to discredit Jesus and get rid of him. They thought they had come up with the perfect plan to trip up Jesus. When they brought the person whom they had caught in the act of adultery (apparently the other one didn’t get caught…) they posed the question to Jesus “What should we do with this sinner?” Well we know what would have happened if this was Adam or Eve, that angry vengeful god would have cast down a mighty vengeance and scorched the land and produced plagues and pestilence.
Jesus’ reply was so simple and yet so powerful “Let the one among you with no sin cast the first stone” the crowds could do nothing but turn and walk away, even though they were plotting and scheming, they all knew that they were sinners too. Jesus showed us the kinder, gentler god that Isaiah prophesied and simply said “Go and sin no more.”
He gave absolution, and did not demand a punishment or penance. Jesus reconnected his love with the sinner and simply said to maintain that connection. Do not separate yourself. Sin no more. Are we able to forgive so easily? Can we re-establish those connections with one another when we have been wronged, or when we wrong someone? Are we helping the people around us be better than what they are? Progress. Are we trying to be perfect? Are we making any progress? If we are getting closer to the finish line, if we are keeping our eye on the prize, then yes, we are making progress. We all have our shortcomings and we all fail, and there was a time when those flaws were unacceptable in God’s eyes. But Christ shows us that we are all flawed and imperfect. And that is OK. God sees us all as his creation and he knows we all have different gifts and talents. And that does make us perfect in his eyes. God looks at us and sees that we are good.
Written by Fr. James Morgan
St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)