With the Son’s Love
rich-thoughts-718-2019-04-08-800x490

April 8, 2019

Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C) on March 31, 2019, at St. Austin Parish in Austin, TX. The homily is based on the day’s readings: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; and John 8:1-11.



The word “Lent” comes from German word for “springtime.” And at this point in Lent, we have come from the bitter barrenness of Ash Wednesday to a time when the promise, possibility, and hope of spring is inevitable!

Our gospel passage today is one of my absolute favorite stories in all of sacred Scripture, where the religious authorities ask Jesus to sentence a woman who has committed adultery.

We’ll approach the gospel today in a more meditative way than usual. We’ll use an ancient prayer technique from the Christian tradition called simple contemplation. Gregory the Great, Augustine, Basil, Bede, and Ignatius of Loyola all wrote about this practice.

So, to explain, let’s start with the word contemplation. This is going to require some sitting in silence together, perhaps even with our eyes closed. It helps to sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor, and taking slow, deep breaths. The advice I give to people trying contemplation is this: don’t worry. You will get distracted. Perhaps a baby will cry, someone will cough, a cell phone will ring, or your mind will wander. Don’t get upset. Just say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently guide yourself back to prayer.  

That’s contemplation in general. What’s simple contemplation? We’ll use our imaginations to insert ourselves into the scene of the gospel story. Perhaps we imagine that we’re an unnamed bystander in the scene. Perhaps we try to see the story from the viewpoint of one of the characters in the narrative. The key, Ignatius tells us, is to engage as deeply as we can. What do we see? What do we hear? We’re very intellectual people, but we need to try to get out of our heads and explore with our hearts. The most important question, as we insert ourselves into the scene, is what do we feel? 

Throughout today’s Liturgy of the Word, we will will hear the gospel passage proclaimed three times. I will give you some guidance on how to enter the scene, and then, we’ll sit quietly in simple contemplation together for a few minutes each time.


[After the opening prayer, but before the first reading:]

We will now hear our gospel passage proclaimed for the first time. This time, imagine that you are one of the Pharisees who is bringing the woman in front of Jesus.  

  • What do you see? 
  • What do you hear? 
  • What do you feel as one of the Pharisees in this scene?  

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 any more.”

Again, what do you experience as one of the Pharisees in this story? What do you feel? We’ll sit in contemplation for a while. [Pause for 2-3 minutes before going on.]


[After the resporial psalm:]

We’ll now hear the gospel passage proclaimed a second time.  This time, imagine that you are Jesus in the story.

  • What do you see? 
  • What do you experience? 

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 any more.”

Again, what do you experience as Jesus in this story? What do you feel? We’ll sit in contemplation for a while again. [Pause for 2-3 minutes before going on.]


[After the gospel acclamation:]

For this third time, imagine that you are the woman in this story.  

  • What do you hear?
  • What do you feel?

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 any more.”

We’ll sit in contemplation one final time. What do you experience as the woman forgiven by Jesus? [Pause for 2-3 minutes before going on.]


We could argue that all the characters in this story were motivated by love. They had wildly different ideas of what love was, however.

The scribes and the Pharisees would probably claim that they were motivated by love of the Law. They were trying to trap Jesus because they felt that he was undermining the Scriptures. But their love of the Law took a back seat to vengeance and politics. The Torah called for the testimony of witnesses and for punishing both people engaged in the act of adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees were more interested in tripping up Jesus than fulfilling the Law.

We know next to nothing about the woman in this story. Even if she loved the man with whom she committed adultery, she did it at the expense of the man to whom she was married. Where was her “lover” now? He apparently made little attempt to defend her as she was being dragged to her death. She was now an object, subject to a game of brinksmanship among religious authorities.

But Jesus of Nazareth shows us another vision of love, a love that treats every person as a beloved child of God. Not only was the woman’s life at risk, so was his. The scribes were looking for ways to entrap him, to condemn him for violating the Law. Yet, in the face of the political pressure to respond, Jesus disengages from the debate.

A scene that begins in chaos, noise, and the possibility of death ends in calmness, quiet, and a chance for new beginnings. No matter how terribly we have been treated by others, no matter how gravely we have sinned, Jesus also gives each of us the opportunity for a new beginning, a new springtime, if you will. When we acknowledge our pain, our sins, and our loneliness, we allow it to be transformed by the warmth of the Son’s love.

“The Rose” by Amanda McBroom

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.

Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.  

I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance

It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long,

and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,

Just remember, in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows,

lies the seed that with the sun’s (Son’s?) love, 

in the spring, becomes the rose.