SHOCKED AND SCANDALIZED

March 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

SCRIPTURE READINGS: DANIEL 13:1-9.15-17.19-30.33-62 (or verses 41-62); JOHN 8:1-11

http://www.universalis.com/20150323/mass.htm

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What is your immediate reaction upon hearing the story of Susanna?  Is it one of joy and satisfaction that justice was done and there was a happy ending?   Such a reaction is normal because we are shocked like the rest of the contemporaries of Susanna that judges who hold such a dignified position perpetuate injustice themselves.  The outcry is that they do not deserve any mercy.

However, if we were to think in this manner, we are no better than the Pharisees in today’s gospel.  They too felt that the woman deserved death when they caught her for adultery.  They had no mercy for her despite the fact that the man was not caught.

But should we be shocked?  Aren’t we the Pharisees of today?  St John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the dignity of women (Mulieris dignitatem, ch.5) warns us: “Jesus seems to say to the accusers: Is not this woman, for all her sin, above all a confirmation of your own transgressions, of your “male” injustice, your misdeeds?  This truth is valid for the whole human race…A woman is left alone, exposed to public opinion with “her sin”, while behind “her” sin there lurks a man – a sinner, guilty “of the other’s sin”, indeed equally responsible for it.  And yet his sin escapes notice, it is passed over in silence … How often, in a similar way, the woman pays for her own sin and she pays all alone!  How often is she abandoned with her pregnancy, when the man, the child’s father, is unwilling to accept responsibility for it?  And besides the many “unwed mothers” in our society, we also must consider all those who, as a result of various pressures, even on the part of the guilty man, very often “get rid of” the child before it is born. “They get rid of it”: but at what price?”

Yet, it is understandable that we all want to protect ourselves at all costs.  Even murderers plead innocent when they are caught.  No one wants to pay for their sins.  Instead of asking for forgiveness in humility by acknowledging our sins and follies, we inflict greater injury to those whom we have hurt.   We suppress our conscience like the judges in today’s first reading.

But once again, we are shocked and perhaps scandalized by Jesus in the gospel.  Jesus did not think like us in the face of sin.  Confronted with the demands of the Jewish leaders to make a judgment on the adulterous woman, Jesus refused to condemn her.  Instead Jesus said, “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The truth is that we are all sinners like the elders and the Pharisees but because we have kept our hidden sins so well suppressed, we fail to realize that we are sinners too.  Indeed, it is ironic that when it comes to others’ sins, we are so quick to pass harsh judgment on them but we are blind when it comes to our own.  Indeed, there is none too blind as those who would not see.  Forgetting our own sins, we therefore can only see the sins of others.  For if only we could see our sins, then the ones who should be condemned is ourselves!

This explains why Jesus wrote on the ground twice.  The first time, He probably wrote the sins of the woman.  But the second time, when pressurized to condemn the woman, Jesus wrote the sins of the scribes and Pharisees.  Perhaps because of this, when Jesus challenged them, saying, “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”, each one from the oldest to the youngest left, since no one could say that he has no sin.

Unfortunately the scribes and Pharisees left the scene.  They failed to receive the grace of forgiveness the Lord wanted to give them.  It is significant that the Lord wrote their sins and that of the woman on the ground.  I interpret this as the Lord saying that our sins are written on sand, which can easily be erased by the mercy of God.  He does not write our sins on tablets.  He knows our sinfulness and our weaknesses. That is why the Lord accords us forgiveness unconditionally.

Of course, sometimes, we cannot forgive ourselves for what we have done.  The woman did not accuse her partner but accepted her mistakes with humility without retaliation.  Yet, there could be a possibility that she might begin to hate herself as some of us do when we have done something wrong.  We become so depressed and even hate ourselves, as we are unable to accept our mistakes in life.

That is why Jesus reassured the woman, “Neither do I condemn you”.  He is saying to us, I did not come to condemn sinners but to save sinners.  That does not mean that He condones sin.  On the contrary, He warned the woman, “Go away and don’t sin any more.”  All that Jesus wants for us is to change and not continue to hurt ourselves.  The moment we repent of our sins, everything is forgiven and forgotten.  Jesus never condemns sinners, but only the sin.  Yes, the Good News is that we are forgiven and loved always by God.

Yes, if Jesus could identify with the woman, it was because Jesus Himself has also been wrongly accused and misunderstood by His enemies.  Today as we enter the fifth week of Lent which was originally known as Passion Week, the mounting hostility against Jesus increases each day.

Today, our innocent Lord invites us to be merciful and to be forgiving, especially to sinners.  If He as Lord and God could forgive His enemies and sinners like us who nail Him to the cross by our sins, surely we, in the power of His forgiveness, can render that forgiveness to those who sin, and especially to those who have been unjust and unkind to us.  During this season of Lent, may we share in the innocent sufferings of Christ in faith, just like Susanna in the first reading.  Let us also entrust our miseries to the Lord, pleading for His mercy for as the response of the responsorial psalm declares, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side”.

WRITTEN BY THE MOST REV WILLIAM GOH
ARCHBISHOP OF SINGAPORE
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Retrieved from http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.ZbQAoc0c.dpbs

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Entry filed under: Inspiring Faith.

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