The Good Samaritan

15th Sunday Ordinary Time
Gospel of St. Luke 10:25-37

We all understand the concept of the Good Samaritan, right? In fact, I am pretty sure that we all have a Good Samaritan story. A moment in our lives when we were in desperate need of help. A moment when we found ourselves in a predicament that required assistance and there, in our worst moment, somebody came to our aid.

I myself have had a few Good Samaritan moments. One of the more memorable occurred many years ago, while I was in college. It was December, the week between Christmas and New Years, and I was traveling across the great state of South Dakota. It was getting late in the afternoon, I was traveling West on I-90 and was about 10 miles from the next exit when I ran out of gas.

It was cold, snowing, getting dark, and there I was stranded on the interstate. So, I put on my winter gear, grabbed the empty gas can in my trunk (because I ran out of gas a lot when I was younger), and started walking. As you assume, within about 10 minutes a Good Samaritan pulled over and offered me a ride to the nearest gas station. Then, after I fillled up my gas can, a second Good Samaritan appeared and drove me back to my stranded car.

I have shared this story before and typically someone will ask, “did they buy your gas?” Or, “did they offer you a meal?” Or, “Why didn’t the first guy give you a ride back to your car?” These questions imply that the aid these two individuals provided was lacking. As if they were not indeed true Good Samaritans because they could of done more.

My response to these questions, is simply, “all I needed was a ride.” I had a gas can. I had money to purchase gas. I had food a plenty in the car. (I was returning to Wyoming after having spent Christmas with my grandmother in Minnesota. I had enough turkey sandwiches to last a week if necessary. )

A Good Samaritan is not measured by the amount or the quality of the assistance given, but rather by mercy shown.

Today’s Gospel is very clear about this.

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a question. A Jewish law scholar asks Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, as he typically did in these type of situations, responds to a question with a question. And the scholar, in the words of the Law, gave the right answer; “You shall love your God, with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” An excellent legal response.

However, the scholar was not content with just the right words, he wanted to be proven as being righteous, of having the right intent, and so he asks Jesus to define “neighbor.” In other words, he was asking Jesus to approve of him. He believed, as a result of his knowledge of the law, that he was righteous and he wanted Jesus to affirm his self-righteousness.

However, that is not what Jesus did.

When the scholar was asked to identify the righteous individual in the parable, he replied, “The one who treated (the victim) with mercy.”
The righteous person was not the “priest”. It was not the one who adhered to the religious rules, guidelines, and rituals… only. It was not the one who attended church when they were supposed to. It was not the one who said all the prayers, wore the right medal, or observed the sacred days, feasts, and traditions… only. The righteous person is the one who responds to others with mercy.

The righteous person was not the “Levite”. A Levite was an individual “set apart” for the care of and the service in the temple. They were also the teachers of the Jewish Law. They were not the priests who were consecrated for the sacrifice at the altar, rather they were individuals set aside for the instruction and the service of the people… possibly, dare I say, the deacons.

Yet, even the person who was responsible for understanding and teaching the law to others. The one person whose responsibility it was to help others live out their faith in real and tangible ways, was not considered righteous. Why? Because the Levite lacked mercy.

My brothers and sisters in Christ. We here, this day, have been called to be righteous men and women of God. We, the baptized, are dependent upon the mercy of God for our righteousness, for without his mercy none of us will inherit eternal life. However, if we fail to respond to the needs of others, regardless of their race, color, culture, or customs in mercy, and with mercy, we are living in disobedience to God.

If we put conditions on our mercy. If we deem that those who are of different faiths, different beliefs, different opinions, or of different sexual orientations as not deserving of mercy, than we are living in disobedience to God

Jesus’s instruction to the self-righteous scholar of the law some 2000 odd years ago is also our instruction today. We must go and do likewise. We must treat others with kindness, compassion, and forbearance. Our mercy is our charitable actions as we attempt to meet the spiritual and bodily needs of those whom we have been given an opportunity to do so. Just as those 2 men, many years ago, came to my aid, in a time of legitimate need, so too should we strive to be merciful to all, especially those who are in the greatest need.

Have We Forgotten Our Roots

Gospel of John 14:15-16, 23b-26

Today, Pentecost Sunday, is best introduced by the words of St. Luke in today’s 1st reading, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”

We, gathered here this morning, do not consist of the entirety of the Body of Christ, yet, we here in this place and at this moment of time are her representatives. We, being male and female, young and old, of many different races, nationalities, and origins may very well indeed be a reflection of the “devout Jews gathered from every nation” of which St. Luke described in the Acts of the Apostles. If you were to stand and wander about this sanctuary, it is very possible that you would encounter an individual very much different from yourself. You may encounter a different language, culture, place of birth, and quite possibly, different political opinions, yet the very thing that we all have in common is that we are here because we believe… and that is no small thing.

We believe in Jesus, the Son of God. We believe that he was a man who was crucified, died, and was buried, and was raised from the dead. We believe he ascended into heaven and we believe that God sent us the Holy Spirit, and that one day he will come again for us.

Now, I recognize that after these basic beliefs things can get a little less… unifying. Depending on individual differences of faith formation, personal revelation, and catechization it might be rather difficult to get from this group a consensus on just about anything beyond the very basic tenant of our faith.

Growing up a Protestant I heard stories about churches being torn apart by arguments on which side of the church the piano should be placed. My wife, a cradle Catholic, tells me about a Catholic church that experienced a tremendous riff when the Bishop decided against the purchase of an organ.

I have confessed this here, from this pulpit before, but I often find myself listening to evangelical radio programs that condemn other self-professed Evangelical Christians because they don’t hold the same end time, rapture, and second coming beliefs that they do. However, before I can get too much of a self-righteous Catholic, I hear about Catholics who condemn other Catholics because they do or do not hold hands with one another during the Our Father. Division and discord are not uncommon regardless of the church you attend.

Yet, what do we read about in today’s first reading. We read about a bunch of people, from many different places, of many different languages, with many different faith formations, and many different personal revelations all finding agreement in one thing. That one thing being, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Isn’t it interesting that St. Luke the historian records for us that the very birth of the Church occurred in the very midst of chaos. That thousands of people, with just as many ideas, perceptions, opinions, and beliefs all found common ground in the “mighty acts of God!” And, what were those acts? Those acts were the very acts of Jesus, of whom the Apostles bore witness. Those acts were the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Those acts were the miracles he performed, the words which he spoke, and the love which he shared. Those acts were the sins he had forgiven, the sinners he had restored, and promises he had made. Those acts were the very embodiment of God’s love for humankind and for their salvation.

We here in the modern-day church are not unlike those early day Christians. They too possessed ideals and practices rooted in culture, tradition, and opinion that caused them to separate, segregate, and differentiate one from another. I have heard it argued that the most segregated day and time in our country is Sunday morning. The traditional day and time when those who are called to be one in Christ gather in their places of worship with people who mostly look, speak, and think just like them.

Have we forgotten our roots… our beginning… our calling?

My brothers and sisters, I am not calling out as some naïve Pollyanna professing that we ignore those things that divide us. Rather, I am calling out in hopes that we do the exact opposite. That we acknowledge the differences and that we embrace one another in spite of those differences. We do this not through the sacrifice of doctrine, nor do we stop professing the truth and wonder of the Gospel, but we do this by continually calling one another to be in community… a community of faith in Jesus Christ.

What Does it Mean to Love One Another?

5th Sunday of Easter
The Gospel of John 13:31-33, 34-35

What does it mean to love one another? How are we supposed to love one another? And, who is one another? This commandment to love which we all have been called is as simple as it is illusive. To profess love for one another is, at times, an ideal that is much easier to profess than too live.

An ideal is defined “as a person or thing regarded as perfect.” Today’s Gospel clearly establishes an ideal. The Ideal of love.

Jesus gave us, his disciples, this clear and specific commandment. He gave us this commandment on the evening of his passion, in the final discourse before his arrest, trial, persecution, and crucifixion. His words are clear, plain, and direct… “As I have loved you, so shall you love one another.” Words which sacrificial meaning became more so evident after the events of the cross.

This ideal to which all, who follow Christ, strive to emulate is given without variance or exception. Jesus does not provide caveats, allowances, or conditions for love. In fact, he identifies love as the proof of discipleship. A love that is perfect, holy, and divine is the defining characteristic of the woman or man claiming to be a follower of Christ.

Today, our challenge is to examine our response to Jesus’s call to love.

Jesus’s call to love is not an end in and of itself. It is not a prize to be won or an outcome to be achieved. Nor is it a plateau, or a mountain top, or an emotional state to obtain and sustain. Instead, Jesus’s call to love is a practice. It is the day-to-day practice by which we live with and serve one another.

The process of living in love is manifested in charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God by all things for this own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves…” (1822). Our charity is the embodiment of the ideal, the perfect love to which we all have been called.

Living in love is not static, rather it is dynamic. It grows, evolves, and accommodates. It is not lifeless, unchanging, and rigid. The commandment to love requires disruption of routine and violation of established norms. When seeking love as a goal, as something to possess, the practices of love become the measure, and, ultimately, the goal. For example, the number of rosaries said, the hours spent in front of the blessed sacrament, and the meals distributed to the hungry become a justification of righteousness. Love, which is measured in joy, peace, and mercy, is replaced with personal accomplishments and rationalizations of devotion and spiritual discipline.

A very current example of this is being played out in our world today. In the country of Venezuela thousands of people are suffering in hunger, lack clean water, and live in fear and darkness. Yet, there are those who use these deplorable conditions to promote a political objective rather than acknowledge the human suffering. To respond as if starvation, thirst, illness, and death are the justifiable consequences of a failed political system is to deny the sacred Catholic teaching of Human Dignity. Condemning human life for the sake of being right in not living in love. Living in love seeks right relationship not validation.

We must resist the temptation to respond to the chaos, randomness, and imperfection of this world with isolation and indifference. Rather, we must respond to injustice, persecution, and deprivation as opportunities to live out the commandment of Jesus, “so shall you love one another.” When jobs are lost, or illness threatens life. When relationships are broken, and false promises given. When despair, doubt, and depression diminish hope, we must not turn away from love. We must not respond in fear. We must not abandon the commandment of Jesus. As followers of Christ there is no greater challenge that we will face. The challenge of responding in all circumstance, to all people, in all manner of hardship in love, is by far the most difficult thing we will do as disciples of Christ.

To isolate, to withdraw, to remove oneself from the body of Christ, is not living in love. To condemn sin rather than to correct sin is not living in love. To create barriers to friendship, to deny kindness, or to intentionally hold back goodwill is not living in love. To place conditions on charity, or to feign ignorance, or worse, indifference is not living in love.

Living in love requires community. Living in love requires forgiveness and patience. Living in love requires intimacy, and understanding, and meaning. Living in love requires that we give whatever we can, that we serve whoever we can, and that we go wherever we can in order that we shall be known by our love.

Jesus, in his last instructions to his disciples, called them… called us… to be men and women who love. To respond to each other and to the chaos of this world in love. He promised us that he would not abandon us. He promised us that he would someday call us to him, and he promised us that we would be known for our love.

I Have Been Called Many Things

Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 21:1-19

I have been called many things; son, brother, husband, and father are the obvious ones. These titles are mostly universal and, to be honest, do not require a whole lot of effort to obtain. They are assigned more than they are earned. For example, I was born a son and I absolutely had no say in that. I only became a brother when my parents decided they wanted another. As I have learned, becoming a husband is way easier than staying one, and, at its most base, a father is simply a matter of biology.

Though these titles in and of themselves represent goodness and are honorable they are not the titles that I necessarily prefer. For example, I much more prefer when my wife calls me lover instead of husband. Dad carries much more meaning to me than father, and though Daddy typically results in me reaching for my wallet, it is a title that softens my heart and brings me joy.

I would argue that a title earned is more valuable than a title given. Unfortunately, not all earned titles are necessarily good titles.

As much as I enjoy the titles of husband, father, and son I have also earned the titles of liar, people-pleaser, and manipulator. These titles represent the worst of me and though I work very hard to ensure that these titles are no longer applicable, the reality is that for some people I will never be known as nothing but.

At the Sea of Tiberius, in today’s Gospel, Simon Peter, son of John, was also known by many titles. He was first a fisherman, then a disciple, then a coward, when he denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest, and finally, through the restorative mercy of Jesus, a shepherd. Not unlike you or I, Peter, had many titles both given and earned.

However, today’s Gospel is less about title and more about relationship. From the beginning, as Peter and his 6 companions insulated themselves from the events of the crucifixion in the comfort of a familiar environment engaged in a familiar task, Jesus sought them out. At day break Jesus stood on the shore of the sea, calling to them, waiting for them to come ashore. There he stood in the early dawn, before the world was fully awake, and waited… waited for his friends.

He waited for them because he loved them.

This Gospel account reminds us that Jesus did not come to earth to condemn it. He came out of love in order to express that love in the only way in which we, in turn, could love him, and love one another. Jesus called the seven men in the boat “children”. A term that implies not only intimacy but also authority. Jesus intentionally sought them out, much like the good shepherd searching for the lost sheep, not merely as a responsibility but because they belonged to him, and he did not want to lose a single one.

To view today’s Gospel as just a commentary on the inability of the disciples to fully grasp the purpose, mission, and meaning of the resurrection, or merely as the restoration of a fallen and disgraced Peter, is to ignore how desperately Jesus desires a personal, intimate, and real relationship with those who follow him.

How easy is it for us, today as modern-day followers of Christ, to forget that reality… the reality that Jesus loves us and wants to be our closest friend! Too often we get caught up in our titles. Our titles of husband, wife, mother, father, employee, boss, or friend. The responsibilities associated with those titles often cloud our understanding of God’s love for us, and, in turn, we readily abandon our relationship with him for the comfort of what is familiar.

Or, which, I believe is even more harmful, we convince ourselves that we are indeed unlovable. We adopt titles of shame and wear them like armor, falsely believing that God’s love is incapable of penetrating the cold hard sin and guilt which burdens us, bends our backs, darkens our vision, and weighs down our steps. Our false understandings and misguided intentions reinforce the deception that Jesus does not want to love us, or worse that he is incapable of loving us.

My brothers and sisters, it would be easy for us to get lost in the subtleties of today’s Gospel. To allow ourselves to be consumed with the symbolic details of the number of fish caught, the significance of the charcoal fire, the call to feed and tend sheep verses lambs, or the different meanings of the Greek words for love would be an opportunity to miss the beauty of the Risen Christ’s call to be his friend. The beauty of today’s Gospel is not in the language, but in the purpose. Jesus arrived on the shore of the Tiberius Sea that fateful morning not to chastise or to discipline. Rather, he arrived there that morning to call his disciples to be his friend. To fellowship with him, to share in a meal with him, and most importantly to follow him.

That reality is as true today as it was 2000 some odd years ago. He is calling to you, to me, to each and every one of us, regardless of title, or sin, or guilt, or shame. He is calling us to fellowship with him, to share in a meal with him, and most importantly to follow him. He is calling us to be his friend.

Not an Either-Or Scenerio

Holy Thursday

Gospel of John 13:1-15

I have desperately been seeking joy this Lenten season. I have been diligent, though not perfect, in my Lenten commitments and I have struggled to remain true to the spirit and purpose of the desert journey to which Holy Mother Church has called us all. Yet, despite my successes and/or failures these last 6 weeks have been a period of “blah”.

I share this not as a complaint, nor as a plea for sympathy.

Our Christian walk is not supposed to be easy… right? But, are we not all called to be joy filled? If you can appreciate those two things than you can appreciate my struggle this Lenten season.

As the Body of Christ, we have come to this somber celebration together. Tonight, Holy Thursday, begins the Holy Tridium, a Tradition of the Church that dates back to the earliest days of our faith. The oldest and official name of tonight’s celebration is, Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, as it commemorates the historical Gospel events surrounding the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. But, for those of us who may not be as official or as old, tonight is often referred to as the night of “washing feet.”

According to John’s Gospel Jesus interrupts the Passover supper, removes his outer garment, ties a towel around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet. This task was typically left to the lowliest of servants, yet Jesus, the master, assumed the role and took up the task; a task that had been left undone by all those present.

The Gospel clearly states this act of service came from love; “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end”, and from knowledge, “So fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power…” Jesus from his love, and in the knowledge of the will of the Father, gave us the gift of his example and served.

He also gave us a command, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

I wonder what would happen if I was as dedicated to obeying this command as I was to following the other, less difficult commands. Seriously, how would things be different if I were as committed to obeying the example of Jesus the servant as I was to going to Sunday mass, or receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, or observing days of fasting and abstinence, or adhering to other less significant local or cultural customs of our faith? Would my family life, my work life, and my parish life look and feel different? Would my thinking, my words, my actions, and most importantly my relationships change if I were as diligent to the service of others as I am to adhering to the basic rules of Catholicism?

How would your life be different? Would your home, your friends, your work environment, your parish be better or worse if you lived your life obediently to the command of Jesus; “as I have done for you, you should also do”? Would you find peace instead of discord? Would you find love instead of hate? Would you rejoice in struggle or despair? Would you find joy… instead of sorrow?

I do. I absolutely believe that following the command of Jesus to serve, to truly serve in love and in obedience to the will of the Father, would result in a joy filled life. I believe this because Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, gave them his greatest gifts; the gift of serving one another, and the gift of the Eucharist.

Was this an afterthought? Was this an, “oh, and by the way”? Of course not! Jesus in his final moments, knowing that he was leaving his disciples to do the work of building God’s Kingdom on earth, modeled for them the gift of service and instituted the gift of the Eucharist.

This was not an either-or scenario. His intention was not that we pick or choose one over the other. Rather, his instruction was that we lovingly do both. His gift of the Eucharist and his gift of service compels us to serve one another always in every way and to receive the Eucharist. We do these both as we live out our salvation and share the Good News of Jesus to those who are lost, hurting, and alone.

My brothers and sisters, we now begin the waiting. We now begin the waiting for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tonight, the blessed sacrament will be processed and the altar will be stripped, and we will enter into a somber period of patient reflection as we await the joyous celebration of Easter. The celebration that indeed our Savior is risen. That indeed our Savior is alive and is preparing a place for us, and that indeed he will someday soon call us all to him. That, my friends, is indeed the very reason for our joy! Amen?

Palm Sunday

Gospel at the Procession Luke 19:28-40

Today is the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn week of the liturgical year. Today, Palm Sunday, we, as the body of Christ, enter into a period of sacred reflection in preparation for a joyous celebration. Some of us are urgently looking forward to a fresh hot cup of coffee, or the sweet delight of chocolate, or simply the joy of no longer having to deny everyday pleasures. Others are trusting the practices and disciplines that were newly adopted 5 weeks ago will now become habits and routine. Regardless of the reason of how we got here, this week is both the end and a beginning, and ultimately an opportunity to renew our hope.

Hope is defined as, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust.” St. Paul the Apostle in his letter to the Romans encourages us to hope, because “hope does not disappoint”. An encouragement we pass on to others when we offer words of hope to one another.

Honestly, there are times when words of hope can feel empty, but in reality hope is be as filling as an Easter Day meal. Hope is intangible. It is hard to explain, but it is definitely a difference maker. One can be hopeful, and one can be hopeless, and there are time when all one has is hope. Hope cannot be traded, or sold, or even purchased, nor can it be stored, or preserved like grandmas canned peaches for use on a desolate day. Hope cannot be possessed, however it can be shared. It can be given away, freely without expectation of repayment or return.

Today’s Gospel reading at the Procession, St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry in the city of Jerusalem, is about hope. From the tethered colt, to the questioning owner, to the ground covered in cloaks of the multitude of disciples praising God, all bear witness to hope. Hope is an expectation, a desire for an outcome, an ending of a story, a result of an action, the fruit of a seed and all of Jesus’ disciples gathered that day and sang praises and shouted for joy, all in the name of hope.

When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees as to the behavior of his disciples, he responded by stating, “I tell you if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” A statement confirming that he is indeed the King, the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets, for if his disciples ceased in celebrating his arrival, then all of creation would take their place. Jesus’ triumphal entry was accompanied by the very chorus of hope. A chorus of voices crying out, celebrating the expectation of and a desire for salvation; the salvation promised by God for his people, for all of God’s people.

However, hope does not come without trial. Hope does not come without effort. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, “that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope.”

Are we personally without trial? Are we personally lacking in effort? Are we not experiencing affliction? Each of us, in his or her own way, in his or her own voice, can attest to the trial, the affliction, and the struggle that feelsl like the exact opposite of hope.

Can we not say the same about our parish? Is our parish without trial? Is our parish lacking in effort? Is this parish, this body of believers, not without affliction?

In both cases, in our personal lives and in our parish, there is no absence of obstacles, hardships, and discouragement. This Lenten season has been a unique struggle both personally and communally. Our personal desert experiences have been complicated by the struggles within the parish. As our hearts go out to all those who work diligently for the body of Christ, and most especially Fr. Raul in his recovery, and Fr. Carlos in the heavier burden he must bear, we cannot help but recognize the struggle and the difficulty which we, as a body of believers, are experiencing.

Yet, we hope. We do not abandon our faith in God and our love for one another. We refuse to let struggles divide us. In spite of all that has occurred, and all that has yet to occur, we do not lose our hope.

Today, this first day of Holy Week, in preparation for the recollection of our Saviors Passion, culminating in our Saviors Resurrection, let us too shout out in joy for the hope symbolized in the triumphant entry of Jesus. May we fix our eyes upon Jesus in joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of all that he promised as evidenced by his life, passion, death, and resurrection. Let us this day join our voices with that of all creation and proclaim our hope… our hope in our King and our Savior.

Much Like a Lemon Meringue Pie

5th Sunday of Lent
Gospel of St. John 8:1-11

Today’s Gospel in John is layered, intricate, and laced with strategically placed subtleties of truth, mercy, and calls to obedience. When the ingredients of this Gospel are mixed with the current realities of our lives, both personal and communal, it is any wonder that the resulting confectionary, much like a lemon meringue pie, is a startling combination of sour and sweet.

The sour of individuals who, in the name of righteousness, were willing to destroy human life. The sour of the sin of a woman condemned to bear the consequence of her transgression, as well as the transgression of the one who was not there. The sour of the law that required death and was manipulated in order to obscure mercy. And finally, the sour in the condemnation and self-righteous vindication on full display in the words, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?”

The sweetness of this Gospel is recognized in the patience of Jesus as he knelt and deliberately drew his finger through the dirt. The sweetness of God’s justice when Jesus calls all to examine themselves before casting judgement on another. And finally, the sweetness of mercy. The mercy that was present in the most intimate of moment between the Redeemer and the redeemed when Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Is there a reason why the Pharisees brought before him this particular woman? Why did they drag this woman before Jesus as the instrument of their test?

According to John the Evangelist the words of the lawyers were very specific when they challenged Jesus. They stated, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” The law did indeed call for death of those caught in the act of adultery. As it states in Book of Leviticus, “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” Yet where is the man? Why was he not brought before Jesus to stand in judgement? We do not know the answer nor is it safe to assume, except that the Pharisees were not interested in justice only in the entrapment of Jesus.

Regardless, I call your attention to the specific language of the Pharisees. The law to which the Pharisees referenced was not just a sentence to death but it was specific to the means of death; death by stoning. This Law of Moses was applied to a betrothed virgin. Only a betrothed virgins caught in the act of committing adultery were to be stoned.

Is it by accident that the Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman accused of the same transgression of which his mother, the Holy Virgin Mary herself stood once accused?

The Pharisees were hoping to discredit Jesus. To demonstrate that his words, his miracles, and his message of salvation were nothing more than the concoction of a deranged itinerant preacher. Instead, Jesus turned the tables and used their own self-righteousness and their perversion of the law and caused them to declare themselves unworthy of condemning another.

When we take the truths presented in this Gospel and attempt to find application for them in our modern-day lives, we experience no shortage of examples. We are able to call out the names of priests and bishops whose secret sins have been so publicly and rightly exposed. We can point fingers at governments, institutions, and corporate entities who have been called to justice for the atrocities and evils inflicted upon humanity in the name of an agenda, cause, or profit. We can even describe the faces of individuals, whom we know and call friends, whose sin has wounded, caused scandal, and created division and strife in our lives and even in our church. There are no shortage of examples of personal or corporate sin in this world… in our nation… in our community… in our church… and, in our own homes.

We have no choice but to respond to the sin around us, whether it be in our community, in our church, or in our own home. However, we must not respond to that sin in the manner of the Pharisees. We cannot cast our fellow brothers and sisters into judgement and ignore the mercy which we ourselves have so readily received. Yes, we must always be calling sinners to repentance and we too must always be seeking repentance.

We judge, we condemn, and we get angry with those who openly and visibly engage in sin. But Jesus did not. He called the woman to repentance and offered his mercy and admonished her to sin no more. Are you? Are you offering mercy instead of judgement? Are you condemning and dismissing or are you forgiving and inviting the sinner into your home and into your church?

As we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter let us take this moment to examine ourselves in the light of today’s Gospel. In the sour and sweet reality of living for Christ in a world that does not recognize him. May we respond to one another and to the sin of this world with kindness and mercy and me we endeavor to obey the words of Jesus, “Go and from now on do not sin anymore.”