April 3: Look Lovingly & Smile (Lent 5C)

“Remember not the past events, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new!” Isaiah 43: 18-19.

During these forty days of Lent, ours has been a worshipful journey. Next Sunday, Palm Sunday and the celebration of the Triduum on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter – these “spiritual exercises” boldly proclaim the Christian faith in the death of Jesus on the Cross and his being raised from the dead by an all-embracing Father.

A friend of mine writes: “Every day, headlines remind us that we are living in a world that is a suffering and dangerous place.”

After two years of a world health crisis, a war in Ukraine, and ecological ruin in the fragile sectors of our planet, we may call it “crisis fatigue.”

How might we open ourselves to the suffering and grief around us? How do Christ’s sufferings best identify for us our very humanity? Something Jesus did not run away from but rather embraced.

Today’s gospel passage is often called “The Woman Caught in Adultery;” sometimes referred to as  “The Incident at the Temple.” But current thinking reflects a better, more apt title, namely “The Woman Whom Jesus Saw and Respected.”

In this instance, and throughout the Gospel, Jesus makes clear that no one is unworthy of God’s love and not this woman ready to be stoned by an angry mob.

We read: “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his figure. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said: ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'”

In one moment, Jesus teaches a thousand lessons and says to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.”

Jesus truly takes notice of this woman and offers his mercy and forgiveness. Here Jesus’s point is clear; namely, we must affirm the inherent dignity of every human person.

If you go to the Bible and try to find John 8: 1-11, you will notice that the passage is placed on the very last page of John’s Gospel. What’s the reason for this?

Scholars aren’t sure whether the passage comes from John or may have been written by the writer of Luke’s Gospel. Others conjecture that the sexual element of the story might have required placement in its special section for adult readers.

Jesus’s brief encounter with the woman tells how he looked on her with love. Do you realize that Jesus looks on us with love? You are a chosen one of God. Maybe in these last few days of Lent, can we slow down, listen and pray?

About prayer, Pope Francis once remarked: “I look at him, and he looks at me. Behold the one beholding you and smiling!”

In this holy presence in our chapel or this vast ecology of God’s creation, he’s looking at us and smiling as you and I help build this Kingdom of God.

Yes, smiling! Like the woman in this story, you are looked upon lovingly. For those who follow Christ, the central question is how do we best announce the resurrection? How do we remain hopeful in celebrating the joy of the Gospel?

I’ll end with this quote from Dorothy Day, the great American writer and activist. How lovingly Jesus changed her life – in prayer and service to the poor. Before Holy Week, let’s reflect on her words during these days. Perhaps, Dorothy Day speaks for the woman in today’s Gospel.

“Christ did not come down from the Cross. He drank to the last drop the agony of his suffering. 

Christ is being crucified today, every day. Shall we ask him with the unbelieving world to come down from the Cross?

Or shall we joyfully, as His sisters/brothers, “complete the sufferings of Christ?”

In their small way, the unarmed masses, those “little one of Christ,” have known what it was it lay down their lives for principle, for their fellows. 

Prince of Peace, Christ our King, Christ our Brother, Christ the Son of Man, have mercy on us and give us the courage to suffer.

Help us to make ourselves “a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men.” (1 Cor4:9)

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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