HOME Homily Archives - Year C Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C
Homily. Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11.


Purple Stole and Gospel
Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11


In today’s liturgy we are promised that God’s power will quench his people’s thirst, even in the desert (First Reading). Following St Paul’s example, our relationship with Christ should be the absolute priority (Second Reading), and if we happen to fail, his forgiveness can put us back on the right road (Gospel).


As a penitential season, Lent is an invitation for us to recall our sinfulness in a particular way. The Gospel today is the classic example of Jesus and the sinful woman caught in adultery. The rock-wielding elders had surprised her in flagrante delicto and, according to the Law of Moses, she should have been stoned for her transgression. Expecting Jesus to take the proper course of action, they bring her to him, who responds with a stunning answer. He simply asks who is worthy enough to begin the onslaught of rocks, which in other words, was an invitation for them to look into their own hearts and contemplate their own sin.

Indeed, that is what we must all do. Our own conscience is our accuser, and once sin is acknowledged, it really is hard to maintain a harsh attitude towards anyone…the elders drop the stones and we, for our part, are compelled to admit, “There go I, but for the grace of God.” Self-examination is a sure fire antidote for self-righteousness.

After the elders had left, the woman stood there trembling with fear. The judgment she had expected, however, should frighten her no longer, because even Jesus, the All-Pure and Holy One, will not stand in judgment. His message urging her trust, “Nor do I condemn you,” also urges her conversion, “Go and sin no more.” The first reading’s image of God bringing life to the desert is pertinent here: the woman’s soul is certainly a desert, but God’s grace can bring new life. The Lord’s command is not one given without any help to fulfill it. His love powerfully accompanies the soul on the path of conversion and healing.

There are different ways to make use of the readings. The most obvious is about sinfulness and Christ’s gift of forgiveness, but perhaps another would be a reflection on marriage. In today’s society the sacrament of marriage is constantly under assault. This Gospel reading today presents the case of adultery, which is a severe wound like few others when inflicted on a relationship. Yet hearing Jesus’ words of pardon are a reminder of how the first instinct of a Catholic, even in the face of such an offense, must not be to reach for Yellow Pages to find an attorney. The Catholic instinct must be, “this marriage must be saved!” Couples are not alone in their struggles. They need to be reassured that God’s grace is present and active. After all, they didn’t simply make a contract when they stood before the altar … in fact, they were the ministers of a sacrament. The road back after a precipitous fall is not easy, but it is possible. Our people need encouragement to remember that their marriages are sacred in the eyes of God and that he will sustain them even in the darkest moments.