Cycle C 5th Sunday in Lent By Br. Lawrence George, OFMCAP
Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
Oscar Wilde’s story “The selfish Giant” has a great message.
Every afternoon, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.
It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into
delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each other.
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.
"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.
TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED
The poor children had now nowhere to play.
Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom
"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."
But the Spring never came, nor the Summer.
One morning, he saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms.
And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have been!" he said.
He took a great axe and knocked down the wall.
Oscar Wilde’s story gives the picture of a man who has understood what he has done was wrong, and corrected himself by knocking down the walls that he has built.
Today’s Gospel presents before us the picture of a woman who stood at the feet of Jesus with the realization that she had done wrong and she was ready to change her ways. Jesus’ reply to her was amazing, “Go away and don’t sin anymore.”
The Gospel gives two diametrically opposing views. One, a group of people who wanted to take pride in punishing the sinner, and the second, Jesus - with infinite mercy and forgiveness. And between them was a penitent who was sorry for her deeds and waiting for a chance to amend her life.
The very purpose of Jesus’ life on earth is reflected here. Make the people aware that their ways are wrong; so, repent and return to God.
It is the attitude of everyone to project the responsibility of his mistakes on to others, and find justification for his deeds. This is summed up in the proverb, “A bad workman blames the tools”. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden God called him, and he put the blame on Eve and said, “The woman that you sent to me gave me the fruit”. God called her. She replied, “The serpent gave it to me and I ate”. The crowd that brought the woman before Jesus to be punished according to the Law of Moses too was trying to hide their faults and find consolation in self justification that they had done a remarkable work before others by punishing her.
It was the principle of Jesus that only the man who himself is without fault has the right to express judgment on the fault of others. “Judge not,” said Jesus, “that you may not be judged.” He said that a man who attempts to judge his brother was like a man with a plank in his own eye trying to take a speck of dust out of someone else’s eye. One of the commonest faults in life is that we demand standards from others that we never even try to meet ourselves. The qualification for judging others, according to Jesus is not knowledge, but it is achievement in goodness. That was the challenge Jesus placed before the crowd, “Let the man among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.
We often forget that when we point a finger at our brethren three fingers are directed to us and one to an invisible power. Through his example Jesus tells us never to point at others, rather be compassionate and be an instrument to radiate the mercy of God.
In the first reading we hear God reminding his people through prophet Isaiah about His deeds for them. He said that it was He who created Israel. It was He who led the Exodus of His people under the leadership of Moses. It was He who divided the Red Sea and who destroyed the great army of the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was He who quenched the life out of the enemies of His people. In view of all these He wants them to return to him. They should be faithful to him, and he will do for them wonders far greater than the ones he had done in the past for their ancestors. A second chance has always been placed before the people. And the second chance always involves a challenge.
Jesus also gives a second chance to the woman. The second chance involved a challenge. A challenge to change; a challenge to grow in goodness; a challenge to reach out to the new way with Jesus.
Every time the chosen people drifted away from God, He called them back with the offer of mercy and promise of a Compassionate Saviour. And that promise of God has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. No matter how great a sinner a person may be, Jesus never condemns anyone; he urges us to repent, encourage us to persevere and assures us of his help at all times.
Each one of us is a masterpiece of God’s mercy. Let’s trust in Him, and he is with us with the reassuring words: