Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we gather together to celebrate this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we are all called yet again to embrace God’s ever wonderful and patient love and mercy, His enduring desire to be reconciled with us and to love us wholeheartedly. He has called us to abandon our sinful ways and our wicked deeds, and to come to Him with contrite hearts and the desire to love Him once again. We are all reminded of this call to repentance and holiness this Sunday, as we continue to progress ever closer to Holy Week and Easter.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord to His people reassuring them of His providence and love. He reminded them of everything that He had done in the past in rescuing them from their predicament. He spoke of the moment when He brought their ancestors out from Egypt, opening the sea before them and destroying their enemies, the armies and chariots of the Pharaoh before their own eyes. The Lord reminded them of everything that He had done for their sake, and not only that, but He also reassured them that He would do even more things in the future to come.
He will send to them the promised deliverance and salvation, by sending them His own beloved Son as the Saviour to all of them, a promise to be fulfilled by the coming of Christ, the Son of God into this world. He would gather all of mankind, all His beloved ones to Himself, and they shall enjoy forever the bounty and grace of eternal life and true happiness of being together with Him in the glory of Heaven. The Lord has always intended for us all to enjoy the true happiness and joy of this wonderful world that He had created, and He did create us out of love that He has for each one of us.
We were never intended to endure the bitterness of suffering in this world. However, our inability to resist the temptations to sin essentially ruined all of that. We fell into the temptations of our own desires and fell to the devil’s lies and temptations as he tempted our first ancestors to follow him and his advice instead of believing in God as they should have. By sin we have been separated and sundered from the presence of God, cast out of Eden as our just punishment and the consequence for our sins. Yet, that was not the end for us. God could have destroyed and crushed us for our sins and wickedness. But His love for us surpassed even His disgust for our sins.
Nonetheless, the reality is that no sin can remain unaccounted for, and we must answer for every one of these taints and corruptions on our very own souls and beings. As long as sin taints us, we will have to answer for every single one of them, and those who pass on from this world with sins still unforgiven and unaccounted for will be judged by those sins we have committed, as well as by those sins of omission we made when we ignored the opportunities when we could have done good things with our lives, be it for the benefit of our fellow brothers and sisters or for the greater community.
That is why in our Gospel passage today we are reminded through the well-known interaction between the Lord Jesus and the woman who had committed adultery and were caught in the midst of doing so, and also how the Lord interacted with the crowd assembled there, some of whom with the malicious intent of using the opportunity to try to put the Lord into a trap and to get Him into a corner and to find reasons to persecute and condemn Him. Why so? That is because the whole event was likely the effort of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in trying to discredit or even persecute the Lord, who was well-known for His frequent interactions and works among those considered as sinners, such as the tax collectors, the prostitutes and people who were possessed, ill and had disabilities.
At that time, associating with those people were often abhorred and discouraged, and this went even to the extent that coming close into contact with them causing someone to be considered unclean and unworthy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular were very convinced of their own piety, their righteous and worthy way of life, through their strict interpretation, enforcement and living of the ways of the Law of God. However, they failed to realise one very important thing that, in the end, it is not they who determine whether they are worthy of God or not. Instead, God is the One Who will determine all of that.
Through the example of the Lord’s interaction with the convicted adulterous woman, the Lord made it very clear that what He wants is not the destruction of sinners like us. Instead, as I mentioned earlier, that His love for us is indeed so great that it surpasses even the wickedness of our sins. Of course, it does not mean that He condones or accepts our sins and evil actions. Rather, He wants us to distance ourselves from those actions and sins, to turn away wholeheartedly from those evil deeds and ways, and embrace wholly His love and mercy, walking ever always in His righteous path.
That was why the Lord told the woman that He did not condemn her, just as no one gathered there did not dare to do so either. When the Lord told the assembled people who pressed Him to take action against the woman, and He said that the one who was without sin ought to cast the first stone at her, it reminds us of all that each and every one of us are sinners, no matter how small or insignificant, how great or serious our sins may be. Sin is sin, and as long as we have sin in us, we are unworthy of God and cannot come close to Him. And yet, it was God Who first made the move to close up the distance between us.
He told the woman that He did not condemn her either but wanting her to turn away from those sins she committed, sinning no more and embracing fully His forgiveness and mercy. It proves that God hates not the sinner but the sin. He does not despise us as a person, but rather our attachment to sin, our stubbornness in remaining attached and obsessed over those worldly desires and all the other temptations that we often fail to resist and even indulge ourselves in. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so fixated on their own sense of pride and self-righteousness that they failed to realise that they themselves too, were sinners.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, should we allow our pride and ego, our desires and the many other distractions in life to prevent us from finding our way to God and His salvation? We must not let ourselves be dissuaded and distracted by all those things that may end up getting us further and further away from the Lord’s path. And that is why we must remind ourselves yet again to seek the Lord with renewed faith, genuine desire to be reconciled with Him and with a contrite heart full of regret for our many sins and wickedness, with the commitment to make amends and to get closer to Him, Our Lord and Saviour once again.
As St. Paul said in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Philippians, all of us have to seek Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, find Him and do whatever we can to walk with Him together, and we have to seek Him as in Him is worth everything and more than whatever we can find and gather in this world. He has willingly reached out to us, with plenty of mercy and compassion, willing to forgive us our sins if we desire to have them forgiven, and as long as we sincerely show contrition and regret over those faults and mistakes that we had done. What better reward and prize we can get as compared to these?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together this Sunday in the Lord’s presence, let us all remind ourselves of our sinfulness and how we all are in need of God’s healing and mercy. We are all in need of this forgiveness for God alone can forgive us our sins. Otherwise, we will have to answer for every sins we have with us that are still unaccounted for and unforgiven as I mentioned. And if we do not change our ways, remaining in our state and path of sin, we will be judged by those same sins we committed. God generously wants to forgive us our sins, but it is often we who reject Him and His love.
And are we going to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who gloated over those whom they deemed to be less worthy and more wicked than they were? This is a reminder that this is not the attitude that we should adopt at any point of time, as this kind of attitude truly prevents us from humbling ourselves and realising that we are always in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. While the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners are all fast going forward in the path towards God’s forgiveness and eternal life as they realised their sins and made the efforts to be forgiven by God, those who kept their pride and ego will perish because of that pride.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remind ourselves and one another to be humble before God, and to make good use of the time and opportunities that have been given to us, such that we may benefit from the gift of Our Lord’s ever generous mercy and compassion. He has proven to us again and again of how faithful He has been to the Covenant that He had made and sealed with us and our ancestors, while we have proven yet again and again, how unfaithful we have been to Him, and how terrible we have been in living our lives so far, in not following God’s path and in walking down our own paths towards doom.
Can we do our best and strive to reject those temptations to sin, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we reject the devil and all the wicked things that he has been persuading us to do, and all the lies and falsehoods that he has presented before us? Let us follow the Lord’s advice and call, for us to sin no more and turn wholeheartedly towards Him, knowing that in God alone there is true happiness and satisfaction. Let us remember that while God loves us and does not despise us, He still despises our sins and wickedness. Let us do our best in the remaining time of this Lenten season, to purify ourselves and to make a good habit of living virtuously in God’s path, so that from now on we may be ever better Christians, ever more committed disciples of Our Lord.
May the Lord be with all of us as we journey together with Him, as we walk down the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. May He grant us the courage and strength to follow Him with commitment and strong desire to love Him in each and every moment of our lives, and may we also be good examples, role models and inspirations for one another in how we live our lives so that many more people may also share in God’s salvation and eternal life with us. Amen.