Tag Archives: gospelreflection

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Isaiah 43:16-21
The Lord is doing something new for his people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 126:1-6
A song in praise of the Lord’s marvelous deeds

Second Reading
Philippians 3:8-14
Paul says that he counts all things as lost and focuses on one goal, Christ.

Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent continues to offer lessons about God’s mercy and forgiveness. Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke. Today we hear not a parable, but the report from John’s Gospel of an encounter among Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery.

In John’s Gospel, the conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees occurs much earlier than in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem is reported at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Even after this event, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple. After returning to Galilee for a time, Jesus again enters Jerusalem and cures a man on the Sabbath. From this point forward in John’s Gospel, the Pharisees are described as making plans for Jesus’ arrest and seeking his death.

In the chapter preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area. Feeling threatened by his teaching and his actions, the chief priests and the Pharisees are already sending guards to arrest Jesus. The guards return, however, without arresting Jesus because they have been impressed by his words. Even more than this, some among the crowds are considering the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah. The chief priests and the Pharisees change their plan. Before making an arrest, they seek to gather more evidence against Jesus by posing a question intended to trap Jesus.

Today’s Gospel begins by reporting that Jesus is again teaching the crowds in the vicinity of the Temple. The scribes and the Pharisees approach Jesus, bringing a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. They put to Jesus the question of what ought to be done in this case.

The Pharisees state clearly that according to the Law of Moses, those caught in the act of adultery were to be stoned to death. Under Roman occupation, however, the Jewish people did not have the authority to execute people; this is cited in John’s passion narrative. To answer the Pharisees’ question, Jesus must propose an action that will be either contrary to the Law of Moses or contrary to Roman law. The purpose of the question appears to be similar to the question about paying taxes found in Mark 12:13-17. Either answer, yes or no, will support the Pharisees’ case against Jesus.

Jesus avoids the trap, however, by offering an answer that was not anticipated by those who posed the question. Jesus, after writing on the ground with his finger, addresses those who stand before him and suggests that the one without sin cast the first stone. Jesus then returns to his writing. This Scripture reading, by the way, is the only evidence we have of Jesus writing. Yet there are no specific details about what he wrote.

We can easily imagine the scene as the Pharisees and the elders disperse, one by one. Jesus has eluded the trap they had prepared. We might also give credit to the elders and the Pharisees who do not, in the end, claim to be sinless and worthy of passing judgment. These Pharisees are not as self-righteous as the portrait found in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (See Luke 18:9-14).

Left alone with the woman, Jesus asks where the accusers have gone. With no one remaining to condemn the woman, Jesus (the one who truly is without sin) sends the woman on her way, refusing to pass judgment on her and exhorting her to avoid future sin.

Jesus’ response to those who accuse the woman is more than a caution to us about making judgment of others. It is a profound lesson in divine mercy and forgiveness. As sinners, we are all unworthy to judge the sins of others and we would stand convicted by God for our transgressions. Yet Jesus, the one without sin and thus our judge, offers us who are sinners his mercy and forgiveness. Redeemed by Jesus’ compassion, we are sent to sin no more and to live in God’s love and peace.- loyolapress.com

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Joshua 5:9a,10-12
The Israelites celebrate the Passover in the promised land.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 34:2-7
A prayer of praise to God.

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Paul preaches our reconciliation with Christ.

Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Jesus teaches about forgiveness in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has been teaching the crowds as he journeys to Jerusalem. As he teaches, the Pharisees and scribes complain and challenge Jesus because he is welcoming sinners at his table. Today we hear the third of three parables that Jesus tells in response to his critics. These three familiar parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and today’s parable of the prodigal son—invite us to consider the depth of God’s mercy and love.

The Pharisees taught a scrupulous observance of Jewish Law. In their interpretation and practice, observant Jews who shared table fellowship with sinners would be made unclean. Like Jesus, the Pharisees hoped to lead sinners back to God. The Pharisees, however, required that sinners first become ritually clean—observant of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Jewish Law—before sharing table fellowship. This appears to be one of the major differences between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus reaches out to sinners while they are still sinners, inviting them to conversion through fellowship with him. Jesus is God acting among us; by befriending us, he is inviting us to return to friendship with God. Through friendship with Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we, in turn, bear fruit for God. Recall last Sunday’s Gospel and the barren fig tree.

Our familiarity with today’s parable risks dulling us to its tremendously powerful message. We call this the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son. Any focus on the younger son, however, must also be balanced by an examination of the unusual behavior of the father.

First we must imagine our first response to the audacity of a son who asks for his inheritance before his father has died. Indignation would certainly be a justifiable response to such a request. Yet the father in this parable agrees to honor the son’s request and divides his property among his two sons. How might we describe such a father? Foolish comes to mind, but so does trusting. Without property of his own, the father must rely upon his sons to provide for his well-being.

The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves home. The older son remains, continuing to provide for the father and the household. Having been disgraced by the younger son, the father spends some time watching the road for the return of the lost son. When he eventually sees his wayward son returning, the father not only welcomes him but also runs out to greet him and then honors him with a party. We say that this father is loving and forgiving. Yet these adjectives only begin to describe the depth of love and mercy that characterize the father.

We find no surprise in the anger of the older son. Yet the father appears sad and even confused by the older son’s indignation. He says in reply that they should celebrate because the lost son had returned. The father is filled with gratitude and love for the older son’s faithfulness. This love is in no way diminished by the father’s rejoicing at the return of the younger son. Yet the older son’s jealousy reveals his limited understanding of the depth of his father’s love.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” Today’s Gospel describes the reason for our joy: God’s great love for us has been revealed in Jesus. Through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ has reconciled us with God and one another.- loyolapress.com

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