2019 Lenten Reflections - 5th Sunday of Lent
In this Sunday’s Gospel, a woman is caught breaking the sixth commandment, and John the Evangelist offers us the rather odd detail that, in response to the Pharisees’ questions as to what should be done to her, Jesus simply hunches over and begins to write in the ground with his finger.
John is always writing his Gospel in the light of Genesis. And here he has Jesus begin to play with the clay of the earth, as His Father once did in Eden, fashioning the first human beings. Jesus here is about the work of re-creating the human race. And it’s how he’s doing it that provides a great Lenten message.
Jesus writing in the clay with his finger…. In only one other place in the Scriptures do we get the image of someone writing something with their finger. It is God the Father, in Exodus, writing the law, the 10 commandments, on the stone tablets God then hands to Moses. (Exodus 31:18) When God had finished speaking with Moses upon Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
Twice in today’s Gospel, we are told, Jesus is hunched over while writing; perhaps, feeling the weight and the burden of the Law, and its demands on us.
And then? And then he sweeps them away — he “straightens up” – an act of freedom – and asks, “Who can keep the Law perfectly? Let the one who has done so, be the judge in today’s case.” And with this, Jesus overwrites the penalties of the Law, with a new commandment – one of mercy, one of forgiveness. God so loved the world that God gave us His only Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world might have LIFE through him.
Perhaps some of us are really struggling with some mistakes we have made, perhaps struggling to believe God could love us after this. We have all been there, at times. When we are, we need to pull out this Gospel, or last Sunday’s Gospel of the Prodigal Son, and sit quietly with it, allowing Christ’s liberating voice to speak to our hearts: “Neither do I condemn you. Stand up straight, and live again in the freedom of the children of God.”