Sunday, March 17, 2013

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

For the RCIA Masses, the Cycle A readings are proclaimed and the scrutinies are celebrated: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. As he comes forth from the tomb wrapped tightly in linens, Jesus says: "Untie him and let him go free." It is not just about being alive, but also about true freedom of spirit.

The Cycle C readings bless us with a truly remarkable story of forgiveness and healing: A woman is brought before Jesus. She has been caught in a shocking and shameful act of sin. According to the law of Moses, it is commanded that she should be stoned to death. This is the case put before Jesus.

The real issue, however, is that the whole situation is meant to be a trap for Jesus – one which the Pharisees believe Jesus cannot escape. If he agrees and says she must die, then all of his teachings about forgiveness could be mocked as idealistic frivolity. If he counsels forgiveness, then he can be condemned for not keeping the law of Moses and therefore inciting rebellion.

Jesus does neither. Rather, he turns the issues of sin and forgiveness against those who are seeking to condemn, to kill, to hate, to justify themselves. He simply said: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Not only is no stone cast, but each one walks away, and each is begrudgingly forced to admit that he is a sinner and cannot judge. Jesus rescues a sinful woman from her sin and gives her back her dignity. He saves her physical life and invites her to a richer spiritual life.

True religion and faith does not destroy life – it gives life. True religion and faith does not condemn – it heals and restores. This story is our story. This story is redemptive and life giving. This Fifth Sunday of Lent and this story of a woman caught in sin invite us to acknowledge our own sin and open ourselves to the possibility of forgiveness, healing, and new life.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

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