Sunday Church at Home, 5th Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

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5th Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

3 April, 2022

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The God of Surprises.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply:      Amen

Leader:        Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply:      Blessed be God for ever

Leader:        Mercy is not just the healing of a wound. It is the creation of a new form of life, just as the resurrection is more than the return to our old life..

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21

Introduction to the reading:

This section of the book of Isaiah contains the words of a prophet who addressed God’s people exiled in Babylon (located in modern-day Iraq). He encourages them that one day they will be free to return home to Jerusalem.  This journey will be through the desert, but God will transform this barren wasteland to ease their passage home.

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing 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 beasts 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
that they might declare my praise.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Palm 126:1-2ab.2cd-3.4-5.6

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

R/:  What great deeds the Lord worked for us! Indeed, we were glad.

When the Lord brought back the exiles of Sion,
we thought we were dreaming.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter;
on our tongues songs of joy.

Then the nations themselves said,
‘What great deeds the Lord worked for them!’
What great deeds the lord worked for us!
Indeed, we were glad.

Bring back our exiles, O Lord
as streams in the south.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
bearing seed for the sowing;
they come back, they come back with a song
bearing their sheaves.

R/:   What great deeds the Lord worked for us! Indeed, we were glad.

Second reading: Philippians 3:8-14

Introduction to the reading:  The city of Philippi was located in what is today northeastern Greece, a country where Olympic-type games were popular.  Paul draws upon this image to motivate the people to keep pressing forward in their spiritual growth.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.

Brothers and sisters:

I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them as refuse,
in order that I may gain Christ
and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own,
based on law,
but that which is through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God that depends on faith;
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death,
that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect;
but I press on to make it my own,
because Christ Jesus has made me his own.Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own;
but 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Word of the Lord.

Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart,
for I am gracious and merciful. 
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

Gospel: John 8:1-11

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
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 taught them.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery,
and placing her in the midst they said to him,
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.
Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such.
What do you say about her?”
This they said to test him,
that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
And as they continued to ask him,
he stood up and said to them,
“Let him who is without sin among you
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
And once more he bent down
and wrote with his finger on the ground.
But when they heard it, they went away,
one by one, beginning with the eldest,
and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus looked up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said,
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

There is a story about an Air Force Colonel who would pay particular attention to how personnel wore their uniforms.  “On one parade, with the whole squadron lined up, the Colonel spotted a junior airman with a violation. ‘Airman,’ he bellowed, ‘What do you do when a shirt pocket is unbuttoned?’ The startled airman replied, ‘Button it, sir!’ The Colonel glared at him and said, ‘Well?’ At that, the airman nervously reached over and buttoned the Colonel’s shirt pocket.” 😊

In our Bibles, the different sections are given titles to describe what is happening in that particular passage. John 8:1-11 is usually given the title, “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” And we recognise it as the Gospel we heard today.

I think a new label is needed, one that places emphasis where it was intended. Perhaps, “The Woman Whom Jesus Saw and Respected” would be a better title because it describes how Jesus resolved the trap he was facing. Another title could be, “Jesus Corrects Jewish Leaders” because that would be more accurate. When we read this story today, remember that labels can influence the way a text is interpreted.

The passage read today comes from John, but how it fits into the Gospel is complicated. The earliest manuscripts of John do not include the story, and some traditions record it at different points in the Gospel or even near the end of the Gospel of Luke. Despite its complex textual history, the story itself is accepted as canonical i.e. part of the Bible. It is an authentic tradition that possibly might have circulated independently of the Gospels.

In the gripping story, scribes and Pharisees bring a woman for public judgment and execution because she was caught (perhaps in the act of) committing adultery. The Jewish leaders prepare to stone her, quoting the Law of Moses.

In Jesus’ world the key figure in adultery was the married woman. Adultery would bring dishonour to her husband. If adultery were proven, both partners were executed. Sirach 23:22-27 describes how a  woman who leaves her husband and provides an heir by a stranger, has committed an offense against God and against her husband.

The laws regarding stoning for adultery require both parties be put to death. Lev 20:10 says, “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. In Dt 22:22, it says, “ If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

The leaders question Jesus on how they should handle the woman. Jesus twice writes on the ground, perhaps preparing his response or signaling that he was ignoring their test. When he finally speaks, Jesus responds to the accusing men with one of the most well known verse from Scripture. He says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

None of them could, so in shame and embarrassment, they drift away.  Then, Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her. When she says no, he replies, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Jesus could have simply said do not condemn this woman—which would have been an appropriate response. Instead, he goes further by recognizing the arrogance and judgment of the leaders who are persecuting her. He is calling on them to be self-reflective. Jesus corrects those Jewish leaders. Rather than publicly humiliate the woman, the men should evaluate themselves and their own misdeeds.

In these last few weeks of Lent, the themes of repentance and forgiveness are emphasised. it has much more to offer. The story of “The Woman Whom Jesus Saw and Respected” shows us the power and problems of shame and humiliation. I hope it can us to think about modern parallels and how we can treat one another with dignity and respect, as Jesus does.

Many people in the church and world have been judgmental and critical, especially regarding women, womens’ bodies and sexual activities. Like the woman in today’s Gospel, modern women often face the unenviable burden of being shamed for sexual actions and even shamed when they are victims of sexual violations.

We are aware of the #MeToo movement which addresses these issues.Countless survivors of sexual harassment and misconduct are sometimes victim-shamed for their circumstances. Victim shaming and blaming, criticism and public scrutiny unfortunately are modern examples of what the scribes and Pharisees do in today’s Gospel.

We must recognize what Jesus does and does not do in the story. Jesus sees the woman and addresses her directly, which the men in the story never do. Moreover, he refuses to condemn her and does not judge her sins even as he instructs her to sin no more. He does not see her as the woman caught in adultery, and nor should we. In addition, when speaking to the men, Jesus shifts the spotlight onto their sinful behaviour, suggesting they focus on repentance rather than judgment.

As we near the end of our Lenten journey, today’s Gospel calls on us to be merciful, empathetic and attentive to our own shortcomings, working to improve in all areas.

Lent is offering a chance to look into our own lives and then turn to our merciful God for forgiveness. Will we receive it? Yes, Jesus is the surest sign to us that we will. Will we offer it to others? That is a good question to ask, especially during this Lent.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said to the Jewish leaders,

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Reflection:

One can imagine that hearing the Word of God, which did not condemn the woman, but set her free, might also have been a word that renewed and enabled her to start a new life. What effect would it have on us if we knew we had done wrong and were ready to be harshly and justifiably judged – and weren’t? Would we feel that “the finger of God” had touched and freed us so we could start all over?

So, we ask ourselves:

  • Do we remember something someone said to us that deeply affected us and made a change in our lives?
  • Is there a word we need to speak to someone that will set them free?
  • Have you used the Lenten season as a time to be self-reflective?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader:         

With confidence in Christ, the Son of God, we present our needs to our heavenly Father.

Reader:

We pray for the Church:

that we may always remember that the Lord wants mercy, not sacrifice.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for those who lack serenity in their lives:
that they may be open to the gift of peace, which comes from Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the gift of a new beginning: that God will transform our fears into hope, selfishness into love, and deaths into new life.
 LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who have sinned, but who do not know how to ask for forgiveness:
that they may learn that in Jesus, mercy and forgiveness abound.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are ill: that God will bring healing to all with long Covid, give strength to those undergoing rehab, and courage to those struggling with addictions.
LORD HEAR US.

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US.

Leader:        PRAYER FOR LENT

Loving God,

during the sacred season of Lent,

bring us closer to you. 

Prepare a place in our parish and in our hearts

for silence and solitude,

so that we may rediscover

the grace of a prayerful life. 

Help us to fast from those things

that threaten the well-being of our bodies and souls; remind us of the grace of simplicity. 

Grant us generous hearts

so that we can give to those in need

and, in so doing,

rediscover the grace of gratitude and generosity. 

May this season be a grace-filled time

to rekindle a love for you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you. Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader:        Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:       

God of salvation,

through your Word
you reconcile the human race to yourself
in a wonderful way.
Grant, we pray,
with devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten towards
the solemn celebrations to come.

We ask this through Christ, our deliverance and hope,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one holy and mighty God for ever and ever.

Amen.

Blessing

The leader says:

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All:               Amen.

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