Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Apr 3, 2022 Views 79 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the 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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)


(R) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

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. (R)

Then they said among the nations, "The Lord had done great things for them." - The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed. (R)

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. (R)

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

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians (3:8-14)

Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as 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 my Christ Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, 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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (8:1-11)

Jesus went out 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."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of the most dramatic and beautiful stories in the Bible. Surely most of us are very familiar with the characters in the story. Besides Jesus, the other characters are the woman and the Jewish authorities. As we read, we can see ourselves either as the woman condemned by others and in need of forgiveness from God or as the accusers who focus on others' faults but fail to recognize our own sins and change our life. Either way, we are reminded that we must seek forgiveness, first from God and then from others, for all of our transgressions and, offer forgiveness and love to those who sin against us, just like Jesus who forgives even when condemnation is justified.

What is God's or Jesus' forgiveness like?

  • God forgives us despite our guilt. The woman was caught in the very act of adultery could mean that she was caught red handed in the act with another man who was not married to her. That's why perhaps she did not try to put up any defense. With her head bowed down in shame and humiliation, she was just waiting for Jesus to pass judgment on her. To everyone's surprise, Jesus, although did not deny her guilt, in His goodness and mercy forgave her because of the remorse in her heart.

    Whenever we are caught in the act, regardless of the sin, there is no point in denying it or blaming someone else. Instead, we must courageously own up to our sin, no matter what sin we have committed and deal with the consequences right there and then so that we can get some peace. However, in spite of the evidence of our guilt, Jesus forgives us. The only condition for God's forgiveness is repentance. Saint John (1:9) in his first letter affirms that admitting our guilt is a requirement to receive God's forgiveness. Yes. God does not promise to forgive the unrepentant, who has no intention of changing his or her ways. At the same time, we must be willing and ready to forgive others just as Jesus forgives us. Because forgiveness is not something we give to an innocent person but to a guilty person or a person who has wronged us.

  • God forgives us regardless of the severity of our sin. The woman recognized that according to the Law of Moses she had committed a serious sin which carried the death penalty. In today's world we may not consider adultery as a serious sin but it was then. Imagine! The woman was standing before Jesus, trembling and with a painful feeling of humiliation, probably just wrapped in a piece of cloth. She knew what she had done and she also knew her behavior was deserving of death. But what she did not yet know was that no matter how severe her sin was Jesus could still forgive her.

    Even though there are sins greater than other sins, every sin is an offence against God, and Jesus died for all sins - both venial and mortal sins of the past, present and future. Hence, all sins are forgivable, except blasphemy or the sin against the Holy Spirit, Matthew (12:31-32). Though it is difficult for the human mind to comprehend that God forgives us regardless of the severity of the sin, it is so comforting to hear that no sin is beyond God's ability and willingness to forgive. Let us, therefore, take our sin more seriously and confidently approach God for forgiveness. At the same instant, let us also graciously and lovingly forgive others, their sins, both big and small.

  • God forgives us not because of a law but because of love. The religious leaders and teachers of the law brought the woman before Jesus and asked him if she should be stoned to death as required by the Law of Moses, as if they cared about the law. If they had cared so much about the law, they should have brought the man as well for it is written in the Book of Leviticus (20:10), "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." So they certainly neither cared about the law nor the woman. They were just using her to trap Jesus. If Jesus had condemned her to death or by passed the law, they would have accused him of defying the law and God. But Jesus did not break any law. He said, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

    What Jesus meant was that let the person who is truly sinless be the one to pass judgment. But all of her accusers left because for one reason or another, they were reminded of their own sins. They were themselves breaking the law which they professed to be upholding and, all of them in some way had "...fallen short of the glory of God", Romans (3:23). That means that in comparison to God's perfect holiness, all were sinners and so they were not qualified to condemn her. Only the sinless Jesus was qualified to throw a stone at her. Thus, Jesus honored the law but went beyond the precepts of the law to offer forgiveness to the woman because of His great love and mercy. He was obviously anticipating His death upon the cross for her and all mankind.

    God does not simply overlook our sin. He sees our sin but is ready to forgive us because He has already fully taken our sin on Himself and paid for it with His death on the cross. He sees every sinner as worth defending and worth sacrificing for.

  • God forgives us to heal us, not to condemn us. When Jesus asked the woman whether anyone has condemned her she replied, "No one, sir." In fact, these were her only words during the whole trial. Then Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you". Jesus being sinless had every right to stone her to death Himself. But He did not. He also did not condemn her because as Saint John writes in his gospel (3:16-17), "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent His son into the world not to judge the world, but that through Him the world might be saved."

    God did not come to condemn us, but to forgive and heal us because of His great compassion. However, when the time comes, as a just God, He will judge us. He will dispose of evil and injustice and He will punish those who have turned away from Him and His ways. Sometimes ungodly people, bad people or people who do wrong, and even enemies of God may seem to prosper and, the ways of God may seem unfair. Such times let us remember the words of the Apostle Peter, 2 Peter (3:9), who tells us that God is waiting because He is patient and wants everyone to have an opportunity to accept His Son's sacrifice rather than pay the penalty that justice requires for their sins.

  • God forgives us so that we may not remain in sin anymore. Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman but instructed her, "Go, and from now on do not sin anymore." In saying this, Jesus was not speaking of sinless perfection. He just wanted her to repent and start a new life. His words both extended mercy and demanded holiness. Jesus' parting words to the woman help to remind ourselves that once we have been forgiven of our sins our goal must be, to live holy lives out of love for the One who has given His life on the cross for us, for our own good and for the good of others.

What is the message for us

God has given us both the free will and the right guidance to use that freedom wisely. Hence, let us not point our finger condemningly at others, but rather look into ourselves, into our lives and see where we have come short and mend our ways. Let us not live in a state of denial about sins, making excuses for ourselves one way or another. Let us "put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light", Romans (13:12). Let us humbly acknowledge our guilt and ask for God's forgiveness. Let us "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave us", Ephesians (4:32).

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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