Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lord, I offer you whatever challenges I am facing today. Don’t let them lead me to lose sight of your love. Paul Nicholson SJ
Entering into prayer
The Jesus Prayer. This is one of the most famous mantras. Listen to each phrase in your head and then add your voice to it . . . Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner . . . Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner . . . Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner. . . continue on your own with this . . . the phrase may shorten naturally . . .
Today's Scripture (John 8:1-11)
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 all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he 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 he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, 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.’
Food for Thought
In today’s reading, Jesus is teaching people who have come to learn: scribes and Pharisees come to ask him about crime and punishment. They present a woman who has committed adultery and point out that the law of Moses stipulates that she should be punished by being stoned to death. Today the finger is surely pointed at those who sexually abuse the vulnerable, including children.
Suggestions for prayer
Try to visualise the scene. Jesus is seated, willing listeners crowd around him to hear his news of the Kingdom of God. Enter the self-appointed judges with their victim, a woman deeply embarrassed to have her failings paraded in front of strangers.
Find a place to stand in your imagination so you can quietly watch what unfolds for a moment, then decide which of the faces is yours. Perhaps you would not want to identify with the woman, or with the scribes and Pharisees. Maybe you are one of the people listening to the teaching of Jesus.
Try to relax for a moment and make the most of being in the presence of Jesus, listening to the good news he brings. How does that feel?
Your learning session is interrupted. Do you mind? You turn away from Jesus to address this new issue. How do you feel about the woman, about the scribes and Pharisees, about the need for punishment? Jesus has stopped teaching; His eyes are on the floor writing in the sand. You are on your own. Jesus challenges the men. It takes two to make love. Sin is never committed by one person in isolation, the person caught is never solely responsible.
The accusers have stones in their hands, but they drop them and slink away ashamed of themselves. You turn back to Jesus. He is staring straight at you. What does his gaze convey?
Is it easy to return it? Is there anything about your response to this situation that you would like to change?
Ask Mary, mother of Jesus to help you understand yourself and the adulterous woman better. Remember, she was told to ‘sin no more’.
How are you going to respond today?
Stand before God, with Jesus and Mary at your side. Feel God’s grace and their loving kindness today. Let that grace change you.
Image for the day
What do you see in this image?
How does it make you feel?
This artist has set this scene in biblical times. Does this help you imagine the scene, or would you have painted it differently if it was set in your own time and culture?
Examen (review of prayer)
At the end of your prayer you can look back and ask: Does it have something to say to you?
How does it make you feel? Imagine how God might reply.
Conversation: When you come towards the end of your time of prayer, talk to God about what has come up for you. End with a formal prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father.