Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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Fifth Sunday of Lent - 2007
March 25, 2007

The readings: [Is. 43:16-21; Phil. 3:8-14; Jn. 8:1-11] 
Message: From now on do not sin again.

First Reading...

"Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise." [Is. 43:16-21]

Second Reading ...

"I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." [Phil. 3:8-14]

Gospel Reading...

"Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before the people, they said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They said this to test Jesus, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When the scribes and Pharisees kept on questioning him, Jesus straightened up and said to them, 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once again Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground.

When the scribes and Pharisees heard what Jesus had said, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.'" [Jn. 8:1-11]

Helpful Story:
A rich Japanese millionaire had a hobby of collecting Chinese Jars. He had a lovely small family – his wife Tsang and daughter Erica. He had collected such a lot of Jars that his home was filled with them. He would place them everywhere. He had warned his wife and child of dire consequences if something would happen to his jars. Well, one day when he was away for his business, Erica began playing the ball carefully. For her bad luck the ball fell on one jar that jar tilted on another, and another jar fell on another. Consequently a couple of jars were broken to pieces. The mother comes running and yells at her child saying ‘you will be punished mercilessly baby’ for these jars. In the evening the man comes home and finds that a couple of jars were strewn on the floor, broken and in pieces. He shouts loudly ‘where are you Erica? I will break you into pieces like these jars, where are you?’ He goes in search of Erica, but she could not be traced at home. He runs outside his home, to his neighbours, to relatives’ houses. No trace of his daughter. He comes back home furious. Spends some time and gets upset with everything. Finally, he comes to his senses and really looks for Erica. He was now greatly concerned. When he could not find her anywhere, he becomes anxious and worried. Reports to the police and they begin a search for her. Now three days are over. Erica is nowhere to be found. Now the rich man is desperate. He begins to repent. He goes to the nearby T.V. station and says ‘I will pay you any amount of money, please come home and video tape all what I want to say and do, and air it in the next programme in your T.V’. Well, the reporters come home and begin to videotape all that the rich man had to say. He begins his confession ‘Dear Erica, my sweet daughter. Come home my darling. I love you so much. My hobby of collecting jars blinded me. I loved the jars more than you. Now I repent and you see what I am doing. He takes a club in his hand and breaks every jar at home and says ‘dear Erica, you broke only 5 jars. I have broken all the jars. Now do not be afraid to come home. I want you’. Saying this he weeps bitterly for his mistake. The T.V. reporters air these happenings in the T.V. and in a day Erica gets back home embracing and kissing her father.

Do we condemn?
I do not know how many of us rejoiced when Saddam Hussein was recently hanged to death. Some even video taped the agonizing man dying. Once himself a great dictator and a murderer had to pay the price with his own death. However, we have no right to rejoice at anyone’s death. Death is the right reward for our sins. That is why the woman was brought to be stoned. But fortunately life came on the way (Jn 10.10). He came to give life, but life in abundance. He told his listeners that those who have not sinned may cast the first stone at her. Well, he also said, do not judge, that you may not be judged (Lk 6.36)

Biblical notion of Forgiveness
Throughout the Bible, forgiveness carries the idea of "release," "sending away," or "letting go." The Greek word often translated "forgiveness" was used to indicate release from an office, marriage, obligation, debt, or punishment. The idea of a debt or something owed is inherent to the concept of forgiveness.

In biblical terms, therefore, forgiveness is the loving, voluntary cancellation of a debt. It is the kind of release Jesus spoke of when, during a teaching moment at Simon the Pharisee's house, He likened forgiveness to the cancellation of a financial obligation (Lk 7.36-47). While having dinner there, Jesus was visited by a broken, repentant prostitute. Her emotions were uninhibited. Expressing deep affection for the Lord, she washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and poured an expensive perfume on them (vv.37-38). Luke says that Simon was incensed and thought within himself that if Jesus were a prophet, He would know what kind of woman was touching Him.

In response to Simon's reaction, Jesus told the following story: "'There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii [1 1/2 year's wages], and the other fifty [2 month's wages]. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?' Simon answered and said, 'I suppose the one whom he forgave more.' And He said to him, 'You have rightly judged'" (vv.41-43).

The point is that sin incurs a debt that must be cancelled or forgiven. The more aware we are of how much we've been forgiven,
the more love we will have toward the one who cancels the debt.

What is the offence or sin committed against us that Jesus told us to respond to? While He was not specific, we must remember that sin can be defined as any failure to love. On another occasion, Jesus summed up our entire obligation to God and to one another as a debt of love (Mt. 22:37-40). Paul did the same when he said, "Owe no one anything except to love one another" (Rom 13.8).

Jesus and Sinful People
What a contrast between the cruelty of the scribes and Pharisees and the compassion of Jesus in our Gospel. The scribes and Pharisees had no regard for the woman.  They were only interested in using her to try to trap Jesus; she was a pawn in their game of chess.  They had no regard for the fact that maybe she did not initiate the sin, maybe it was the other.  But Jesus is full of compassion. He restored the woman again. He restored her in two ways. He restored her spiritually by forgiving her, telling her he did not condemn her, while also insisting that she not sin again, and he restored her to society by saving her life. No one knows what Jesus wrote on the ground but some people suspect Jesus wrote the sins of the scribes and Pharisees.  Notice also that it was the eldest who went away first, the eldest had committed more sins, they had more to be sorry about in their own lives.  The woman received forgiveness from Jesus and also received her life back again.

Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Notice Jesus’ last words to the woman, “go away and don’t sin any more.”  Although Jesus has forgiven her sin he expects her to live a life of grace and union with God from now on by not sinning any more. Jesus doesn’t say that sin does not matter because sin does matter and damages our relationship with God. When we receive Jesus’ forgiveness he expects us to live as new people afterwards.  That is precisely the attitude with which we are to come to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It would make no sense to come to confession if we intended to continue committing the same sin again.  In weakness we may commit the same sin again but as we come to confession if we do not intend to amend our lives then surely we cannot say that we are truly sorry for our sins.  Surely we can only genuinely say that we are truly sorry for our sins if we have a firm intention not to commit sin again.

Beginning of Sin:
Sin begins in the mind, from there it moves on to become an action, from there it moves on to become a lifestyle, and then it affects us in eternity.  Jesus said not to sin again.  We need to begin by feeding our minds with what is good instead of with what is rubbish.  In our second reading today we see Paul filling himself only with Jesus and cutting out all rubbish from his life.

Our Sinful tendencies
First of all a personal examination of conscience will reveal that basically we are all sinners. We need a deep purification. At times our confessions are just an exercise to get rid of our fear of hell. Not real repentance to come back to God. We are all filled with the fear of hell, and consequently our repentance an exercise of getting rid of our fears or torture and not cultivation of love.

We have lot of tendencies in us: first of all, like judging others as bad, insincere, rude, cruel. Secondly, we look down upon others, considering that we are the best, we excel in virtues, and devotions and others are good for nothing. Thirdly, we consider ourselves worthy of God’s love, forgiveness and compassion; and at the same time we condemn others to hell of fire.

Try this
Need to find out in your own environment events that can strengthen your homily. Just observe people or listen to them and you will find most of them condemning others for the situation they are in. You can also listen to yourself, and find out how many times you condemn others in your thoughts through out the day. May be in a week you must have condemned more people than those Scribes and Pharisees.

We condemn poor people, drunkards, we condemn the traffic on roads, and we are upset when climate is too warm, too cold. We condemn the public departments. Well, what have you done, to improve situations?
Now go and sin no more…


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