This is my homily for 21 March 2010, 5th Sunday of Lent,. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “March 21” in the calendar.
[__01.] Out of their hiding places will come certain types of reporters, some of them we find less than reputable, but out of their hiding places they will come if the sense even the slightest bit of impropriety.
They will pounce on their prey with their flashbulbs, lenses, and microphones. And, as we have been taught about journalism and -- even e-mail – the pen is mightier than the sword, even if your “paper” is really a computer screen and the only “ink” is in your printer.
In such a world, even the digital camera in our phones could be a lethal weapon to capture an image that could damage someone’s reputation. It’s a small world after all. And, we never know who is watching. Not good news.
[__02.] On the other hand, some would suggest that big stars and famous people just want their names highlighted and boldfaced. They care not for the breath of scandal – even the breath of scandal could breathe new life into a career. As they say in Hollywood, there is no such thing as bad publicity. But, that’s not really good news either.
[__02(a).] But, wouldn’t the scribes and Pharisees agree and Jesus himself agree that there is such thing as bad publicity – in this case – from the Gospel of John, chapter 8.
The scribes and Pharisees and Jesus would agree that things are not going well for the woman caught in adultery. (cf. John 8 : 4)
[__02(b).] The Pharisees want to make a visible example of this person, of her sins, so as to levy punishment.
They want a public confession and punishment.
And, if this were our view of confession, we would also prefer to hide from the cameras and microphones.
We would want our sins hidden from view so that we can fit into polite society, fit in with our friends and family, and have the material things that rightfully belong to us.
We would want to hide our sins from the Pharisees and the scribes and their legal briefs and briefcases.
The Pharisees also want “hiding” too. They want to hide this woman away, to take her life away, to banish and exile her at the very least.
By bringing her out into the open, the Pharisees and scribes are keeping their system of law and order going.
[__04.] Visibility of sins – and sinfulness - for Jesus our Lord -- is also about law and order. But it is a law and order without attorneys and prisons. Better news.
For example, in the sacrament of confession – this sacrament of forgiveness – we are invited to bring ourselves forward into the light. But, there will be no flash photography permitted. It is between you and Christ.
In other words, to confess our sins to our priest, we do this not because we fear the “crowd ” . In other words, we do not fear that the crowd will take our lives away.
Rather, we do this because we believe that sin can take our lives away, sin can take the life out of us.
And, when we confess our sins, we admit – and we ask God to give our life back to us.
[__05.] Jesus is committed to teach us about the seriousness of our sins while also emphasizing the strength of his mercy.
The Pharisees and scribes, as prosecutors, do not agree with this defense strategy. They would suggest that repentance is only possible for those who already good and just.
But what Jesus suggests to the Pharisees and scribes and paparazzi is that –
“They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For I came not to call the just, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Jesus intercedes with his mercy for sinners, for you and for me, and just as he intercedes for the woman in the Gospel.
Jesus is also more interested in our motives and repentance than in the sins themselves. Jesus says to her, “Then, neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Jesus offers us his forgiveness and his intercession in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, so that we also might be prepared to live in freedom.
He even intercedes for us in the public square right out there where everyone can see us, so that we might live in freedom both in public and in private. That’s the Good News. [_end_]