Pope Francis, the successor of St Peter, is this weekend walking in the footsteps of St Paul as he visits Malta. He will call on this small Mediterranean island to do more to help the refugees fleeing Africa at the same time as he calls upon the world to do more to work for peace in the Ukraine and the other places around the world where there are conflicts.

Today we are reminded that Jesus does not condemn us because we are sinners, quite the opposite. Jesus gently drives away those who would condemn, because He knows we are all sinners and none of us has the right to condemn anyone else.

If we look a little bit closer at this, we find that those who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus did so as a ‘test’. They were not putting the woman on trial; in their eyes she was already guilty as she had been ‘caught in the very act of adultery’. If that was so, where was the man who she was with? Jesus bent down and started writing in the sand, what is the significance of this and what was He writing?

If we look at the Old Testament to the Book of Jeremiah verse 13 it says, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be put to shame; those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” Was Jesus writing the names of the accusers? We don’t really know. But look again at that text and compare it with verse 7 from John’s Gospel where Jesus said ‘Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, “From his heart will flow streams of living water.”’ Jesus is the fountain of living water foretold by the prophet Jeremiah.1

Also, from the Old Testament there needs to be two witnesses to secure a conviction. With all of the accusers drifting away, there was no longer anyone to provide evidence to condemn this woman. Jesus, said to the woman “Neither do I condemn you, go away and sin no more.” Jesus did not come into the world to abolish the law; He came to fulfil the law. He is not condoning the woman’s sin, but equally He does not condemn her because of it. Jesus is full of compassion and mercy, and He expects us to be compassionate and merciful too.

Is there anyone in our lives that we need to show compassion to at this moment? As we look back on last week, have we judged anyone? If we brought them in front of Jesus already condemned, what would Jesus write about us in the sand?

Last week, my plans for Sunday were thrown into disarray when two family emergencies meant late changes of plans for me. One consequence of this meant me attending the Sunday evening Mass instead of the two morning Masses. I was already pencilled in to preach at both morning Masses, where the second Scrutiny was being celebrated for the Catechumens at St Bede’s. The readings for this are different to the normal Sunday readings and therefore the Homily would need to be different, this was all duly prepared and ready.

However, when I switched to the evening Mass the normal Sunday readings were back in place and I was offered the opportunity to preach. I thought that I knew the story of the Prodigal Son well enough to be able to be able to preach on it without preparing properly. When I tried to do so I found out that I did know the story reasonably well, but if I want to get a message across to people well enough; then I need to prepare well. I learned an important lesson for my ministry that I need to prepare properly and not to allow my pride to take over. The people attending Mass deserve better and I will endeavour to make sure that I don’t repeat this error.

Being a follower of Jesus allows us to identify our mistakes and bring them to Him. We don’t need a mob baying for blood to bring us before our judge. Jesus confronts the sin not the sinner. He allows us to drink from the fountain of living water, which is the Holy Spirit. He forgives us and tells us to sin no more. We have every reason to fulfil the prophesy of Isaiah, used in the first reading today “The people I have formed for myself, will my sing my praise.”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 430, 545, 589, 1846-1847: Jesus manifests the Father’s mercy
CCC 133, 428, 648, 989, 1006: the surpassing wealth of knowing Christ
CCC 2475-2479: rash judgment

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.

Deacon Tony 2nd April 2022

1 https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/blog/what-did-jesus-write-in-the-sand

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)