Homily – 4/7/19 – Fr- Michael Casagram — The Righteousness of God

+THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD                     5th Sunday of Lent(C), 2019

Our lives as Christians get intensified during Lent as we seek to be more attentive to grace in our lives. This 5th Sunday would have us consider with St Paul to accept all things as loss for the sake of Christ so as to “be found in him, not having any righteousness of [our] own based on the law but that which comes through faith in” Christ Jesus. To do so is to already experience the power of the resurrection.

As Christians, our faith brings about in our hearts the working of Christ’s very own presence within and all around us. Is this not what the prophet Isaiah foretold in our first reading when he says: “remember not the events of the past… see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through Baptism water is not only poured over our heads but the living water of the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, making of us a people after God’s own image and likeness.

This inner change happened dramatically to the woman presented to us in the gospel. She has been caught in adultery and made to stand before the Scribes and Pharisees in the presence of Jesus and all the people whom he had been teaching. The Scribes and Pharisees are setting Jesus up so that they can bring a charge against him. Jesus sees right through what is happening so he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. As I read this, I must admit, the first thing that came into my mind was why is it that the woman is made to stand there and not the man who probably initiated the adulterous act in which they were caught? No one questions this in our gospel though today we are more likely to raise the issue of injustice.

Jesus bending down and writing on the ground with his finger speaks volumes to us all. In doing so he is communicating what is actually going on within the hearts of those gathered at the scene, and of all of us. Jesus is really interested in what is going on deep down within us where grace, given room, is able to work and make all things new. Jesus is ever helping each one of us to find our true selves so as to become honest about what is actually unfolding in our lives. As we truly own what motivates us and surrender to the Light of his presence, God’s own righteousness is able to take over and become the guiding force of all we are and do.

When the Scribes and Pharisees insist on a response from Jesus, he simply says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then continues to write on the ground. It was a great awakening for those seeking to find some charge to bring against him. How easy it is for any of us to condemn a brother or sister for some sinful act out of our own prideful thinking and self-righteousness. To be able to own this and turn for help from God’s loving presence, we are given a whole new awareness of others and the world around us.

To do so is to open ourselves to the power of Christ’s resurrection. It takes a lot of courage to allow this awakening to take place for it means a death to self and thus a sharing in Christ’s own suffering. But isn’t this what this season is calling us into as we see what happened to Jesus after he revealed what was going on in the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees. Unwilling to open themselves to this inner transformation, they sought to put Jesus to death.

Each of us as Christians is asked to die daily to self so as to live to God. This is wonderfully symbolized in the Eucharist as often as we celebrate it. The bread and wine that we bring to this altar, that are consecrated, broken and shared are our own lives as well as that of Christ. Let us be forever grateful for what God is bringing about here in this celebration and each moment of our lives.