Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent Father Steven Reilly, LC
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. 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. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you though I often forget to exercise my faith. I trust in you, though I often lose my peace over little matters. I love you, though I miss so many opportunities to exercise my love throughout the day because I get wrapped up in myself. I am so grateful to realize that you smile on me in my weakness and misery and only desire the good for me in return.
Petition: Lord, help me to be faithful in my marriage.
1. "They Have No Wine." The words of the Blessed Mother — "they have no wine" (see John 2:3) — have a relevance that is as permanent as it is poignant. The wedding feast ran out of wine for the same reasons as many marriages do: lack of awareness, a failure to anticipate needs, taking things for granted. Few events manifest the "lack of wine" more profoundly than adultery. We cannot know all the circumstances surrounding the act of adultery of the woman in today's Gospel reading. Perhaps she was "more sinned against than sinning." But whatever emotional pain, neglect or temptation brought her down, Jesus' formula is simple: "Go and from now on do not sin anymore." Easier said than done for a marriage now beyond repair? Jesus isn't just a therapist. He is God. Remember that he turned water into wine.
2. The Blessing of Accountability: The woman probably felt dead already, filled with terror as she was led through the streets to the taunts and whistling of bystanders. We feel compassion for her, precisely because we know that we, too, are sinners. Jesus' mercy towards her inspires us, because love stirs our hearts at a far deeper level than fear. But we also know that, as disagreeably self-righteous as those elders were, getting caught was a good thing for the woman. Through it, she was able to experience the mercy of Christ and have another chance. Marriages don't thrive when there are dark corners and hidden places that are off-limits to one's spouse. Accountability and transparency, on the other hand, continually engender that most precious of marital virtues: trust. The daily and consistent effort to be accountable, to embrace "mutual submission" (Cf. Ephesians 5:21), and constantly to make "trust deposits" in the love bank account are the best insurance against marital shipwreck.
3. Second Chances: "Go and from now on do not sin any more": words both stirring and challenging. What happened after that? That's a complicated question because second chances in marriage involve two people. Having received a vocation to become "one flesh," both spouses need to embrace the need to accept God's grace, accept responsibility, forgive, and work together to overcome whatever wound has been inflicted on their relationship. This mutual work can only begin with oneself. That's why Jesus says, "Do not sin anymore." In fact, changing one's own heart, centering it on God and then striving to be the best husband or wife one can be, is frequently the best way to stir things up positively for the relationship as a whole. Jesus is all about second chances. When two people stand before the altar to pledge their love, it is indissoluble. But that's not only about the bond between them. It's also the bond between them and Christ. "Do whatever he tells you!"
Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know how many tests and temptations we are subject to. Give us strength! Don't allow the corrosive effects of time to wear down our relationships. Help us to be faithful to each other and to you.
Resolution: I will make a special spiritual sacrifice today for my marriage (or for the faithfulness of married couples if I am unmarried.)