Sunday Readings and Reflections

Rembrandt’s “Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery” (1644).

Sunday, April 3 
Fifth Sunday of Lent 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Richard

Book of Isaiah 43,16-21.

Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, 
Who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, Till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. 
Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; 
See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. 
Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, 
The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise. 

Psalms 126(125),1-2ab.2cd-3.4-5.6.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, 
we were like men dreaming. 
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, 
and our tongue with rejoicing. 

Then they said among the nations, 
“the LORD has done great things for them.” 
The LORD has done great things for us; 
we are glad indeed. 

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, 
like the torrents in the southern desert. 
Those that sow in tears 
shall reap rejoicing. 

Although they go forth weeping, 
carrying the seed to be sown, 
they shall come back rejoicing, 
carrying their sheaves. 

Letter to the Philippians 3,8-14.

Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ 
and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith 
to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, 
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). 
Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, 
I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint 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.”

Gospel Reflection: Lessons in Mercy

Near the middle of the Gospel of John (8:1-11), we encounter the story of a woman caught in adultery who is brought before Jesus for judgment. Jesus’ actions that day have much to teach us about the nature of the relationship between mercy and justice.

After spending the night on the Mount of Olives, Jesus arrives in the Temple area and begins teaching the people who have flocked to him. The scribes and the Pharisees bring before him a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. Citing Mosaic Law, which calls for the stoning of the woman, they ask Jesus his opinion on the matter.

At first, Jesus says nothing, preferring instead to write on the ground with his finger. But as the scribes and Pharisees press for a response, Jesus famously says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” before resuming his writing on the ground.One by one, the woman’s accusers leave until only the woman and Jesus remain. Jesus asks her where everyone has gone. When she replies that no one is left to condemn her, Jesus indicates he also does not condemn her, then says, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

The great doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo helps to shed light on what is taking place in this Gospel story. He explains the Book of Psalms identifies truthfulness, meekness and righteousness as characteristics of the long-awaited Messiah. The scribes and Pharisees in our story knew this, and had seen that Jesus exhibited all three of these: truth as a teacher; gentleness and meekness as a protector and in the face of his enemies; and righteousness as a person in all his actions. Now, while they respected his truth and meekness, St. Augustine asserts they were tormented with envy by his righteousness and sought a way to upend him.

Consequently, they were trying to trap Jesus into a choice between gentleness and righteousness; between mercy and justice. They reasoned the law commanded that adulterers had to be stoned, and because it was the Law of Moses, it could not command anything unjust. So if Jesus were to have mercy on the woman by arguing against her stoning, then he would be shown to be unjust and, therefore, unrighteous. This would enable them to charge him with being against the Law of Moses.

On the other hand, if Jesus were to agree with the law and her stoning, then Jesus would be shown to be unmerciful. This would undoubtedly cause him to lose influence with the people, as he was loved precisely because of his gentleness.

Of course, Jesus’ response both keeps the demands of justice and of mercy. He did not speak against the law by saying she should not be stoned, nor did he say she should be stoned. Instead, he put it back on the woman’s accusers, saying, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” With this, he forced the woman’s accusers to look inward at their own guilt in violating the very same law. St. Augustine puts it like this, “Hence, either let this woman go, or together with her receive the penalty of the law.”

He argues that the voice of justice says let the sinner be punished, but not by sinners. This ultimately causes all to depart, leaving only the woman and Jesus, the one without sin, the one who alone could cast the first stone. However, the woman receives mercy instead, with the admonition to sin no more.

St. Augustine adds that the Lord certainly did condemn the sin, but not the person. Because the Lord is merciful and long-suffering, he allows us space for correction – gives us the opportunity to repent of our sins and offers us pardon. However, because the Lord is also just and true, our failure to repent will lead to our just punishment.

Due to this, we face a double danger, according to St. Augustine. We are in danger of being deceived by oping we can do whatever we please, letting loose the reins to our desires, in the belief that God, in his goodness and mercy, will simply overlook this. In other words, we have no need for repentance or worry, for God will save us regardless.

We are in danger from despair when we believe our sins are so great that they are beyond pardon, even though we repent of them. In other words, we are doomed to damnation regardless.

For those being deceived by hoping, fear of God’s justice is the antidote. To these, Jesus directs the words, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” For those in despair, trust in God’s mercy is the antidote. To these, Jesus says, ““Neither do I condemn you.”

It bears repeating the mercy of Christ reveals that the love of the Father is more primary and fundamental than the Father’s justice. Mercy, in the words of St. John Paul II, “signifies a special power of love, which prevails over the sin and infidelity” of the world. Yet, justice is not forgotten. On the contrary, in overcoming sin, love transformed into mercy restores right relationships, or justice, by restoring the dignity and value of the offending party. Furthermore, mercy always calls the sinner to conversion.

(source: Faith Magazine)

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

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