The final judgment will be up to God

  • March 12, 2010
Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 21 (Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

The God of Exodus was the God of mighty signs and wonders. But the God of Isaiah is set on outdoing Himself as He describes His intended liberation and restoration of the people of Israel. They are to forget all of the things that God has done in the past because they will pale in comparison to what God has in mind for the future.

One of the hallmarks of God’s saving power is life where there was none and fruitfulness where there was only arid wasteland. This is evident not only in the lives of individuals but peoples and nations. God’s miracles should never be relegated to the distant past in our minds for God is ever on the move. In the face of so much suffering and destruction in the world it is important not only to remember this but to believe it with all our hearts. Despite what we may see God is certainly about to do a new thing if we are ready to accept it.

Many people work so hard to reach the top or achieve their goals only to discover that it leaves them empty, restless and searching for something more. It wasn’t want they really wanted after all. Paul had an experience of this nature. He was a very accomplished man, being well educated in both the Greek and Jewish worlds. He was well-respected in the religious realm and had the reputation for being both exceedingly pious as well as zealous for the ways of God. He did not seem to struggle with self-doubt or a sense that he was falling short of God’s standards — in fact, he was quite proud of the religious achievements he had made. But his encounter with the risen Lord “ruined” it all! All of a sudden, all of his accomplishments seemed utterly worthless. They weren’t worthless but they seemed so in comparison to his relationship with Christ and the glory and power of His resurrection.

Paul was still a driven man but it is the love of Christ that propels him forward. As we deepen our relationship with God many of the things that we once valued highly may fade and lose their lustre. After all, something far greater can be ours.

Judging and condemning others is a common human failing. People can be vicious, unforgiving and harsh with others while remaining blissfully unaware of their own failings. We see it in the media: people are pilloried and dragged through the mud for their failings — it is almost a blood sport. People can project their darkness on others and feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, this is also far too common among people who regard themselves as religious. The controversies surrounding the various religious and ethical issues of our own time have generated an appalling level of viciousness, hatred and unwillingness to see the face of God in one’s opponents.

The same mechanism is at work in the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery. The mob wants blood and all of their own darkness and fury is projected on this hapless woman who has become a scapegoat (note the absence of the man). Jesus refuses to be pulled into the mob’s feeding frenzy. He will not condemn the woman nor will He take issue with the law and tradition. Lynch mobs usually wait for someone to perform the first act of violence for it gives “permission” for the others to follow.

Jesus does nothing of the sort — in fact, His silence and studied nonchalance is probably unnerving for them. He insists that only the one who is sinless is in a position to carry out the sentence. This and His writing or doodling in the sand has clearly provoked a lot of self-examination. One by one they drop the stones on the ground and slink away.

In His conversation with the woman Jesus refuses to exercise condemnation or judgment but imparts sound spiritual advice. This story is not about Jesus forgiving the woman but a warning to all that moral indignation and eagerness to condemn and punish is often a cloak for our own inner darkness and sin. It is a forceful reminder that we have all fallen far short of the glory of God and are all in need of mercy and forgiveness.