Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Homily for Lenten Vespers in the Week of Reminiscere - The Second Sunday In Lent
John 9:1-7; 2 Corinthians 5:12-19; Isaiah 8:1-10
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The woman caught in adultery was not a prostitute. She was married. For, the Jewish law commands that, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” But, where was the adulterer? Where was the man? Should he not have been charged with adultery also and stoned to death along with the woman? After all, it takes two to tango. Nonetheless, this woman was not a prostitute. She had a husband, and she was unfaithful to him.
Now, while the story of the adulterous woman is a true, factual, and historical account, the adulterous woman is also symbolic of the Church. For, the Church – the people of Israel then, and the New Israel now – is we, and we have also been adulterous and unfaithful to our Husband, the Lord. Yet, just as the Lord refused to judge and condemn the woman, though He is the righteous and innocent Lord of heaven and earth and all things, so does He refuse to judge His Bride, the Church. Instead, out of love for Her and supreme mercy, He put Himself in Her place, the Innocent for the guilty, the Judge for the judged, and received in Himself the condemnation and penalty She deserved, death.
The scribes and the Pharisees, that is, Satan, wanted to entrap Jesus. The woman, the Church, was but a pawn in his game. He doesn’t give a rip about Her. He doesn’t give a rip about you. But, he hates God the Father, and he hates Jesus, your Bridegroom, and, therefore, he hates you, His Bride. So, he thought he had Jesus this time. For, if Jesus condemned the woman, as the Law demands, the Romans would have arrested him, for Roman law did not permit the Jews to render the death penalty or to execute anyone. However, if He showed mercy, then He would have been accused of breaking the Law of God. But, Jesus didn’t take the bait. Instead, He kept the Law and He showed mercy upon the woman at the same time, and, in so doing, He exposed the scribes and the Pharisees for the hypocrites they were by turning the Law back on them and by showing that they weren’t interested in obeying it or preserving it, but only in using it to entrap Jesus. They had no regard for God’s Law at all, demonstrated in the fact that they brought only the woman caught in adultery before Jesus, and not the adulterer, the man, whom they, necessarily, had also caught red-handed in the act.
So, what did Jesus do? He wrote with His finger in the dirt. It was the Sabbath, and to write anything that would leave a permanent mark would be a violation of the Sabbath Law. However, writing in the dirt was not considered a violation, for the wind and the weather would soon erase what was written. So, by writing in the dirt, Jesus did not violate the Law, but He kept it, and He fulfilled it, in what He wrote. What did He write? Well, the Scriptures do not tell us. However, as the scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus so that He would be forced to make a judgment, what He wrote was most likely the judgment against her according to the Law. I believe that He simply wrote the words of the judgment: “Kill her.” Why? Because that is precisely what the Law commanded for the punishment of an adulterer. And, then, after having made the judgment, Jesus uttered the method of execution saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And, therein, the would-be entrapped became the entrapper. For, if any one of them threw a stone at her, the Roman soldiers would arrest them immediately. And, yet, to drop their stones and walk away would be to demonstrate their fear of men before and above God. Thus, one by one, beginning with the elders, who were ashamed, having been exposed in their treachery, they each dropped their stones and walked away to plot against Jesus for another day.
Then Jesus turned to the woman herself and pointed out the obvious, that there was no one left to condemn her except Himself. Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” In these words Jesus pronounces the mercy He came to show to His Bride in not giving Her the bad things that She deserves because of Her adultery, Her sinful disobedience to God’s Law. But, in Her stead, in Her place, and as Her substitute, Jesus, the Bridegroom, would suffer the penalty for Her transgression in His suffering and death upon the cross. However, Jesus did not permit Her to believe that Her adultery, Her sin, did not matter, but in his final words to the woman Jesus neither condemned her nor overlooked her self-destructive lifestyle. He walked a razor's edge between the two with the words, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Your Lord continues to speak these very words to you, His Bride, over and over, again and again, in the Holy Liturgy of the Divine Service. As you confess your sins anew in humility and repentance, you do so in the certain hope, knowledge, and expectation of His absolution: “Neither do I condemn you.” Then, clinging to His absolution in faith and trust, you set your heart and your mind once again, not out of fear or compulsion, as to a slave master, but out of love and thankfulness to your Husband and Lord who loves you with perfect and selfless love, to obey His command, “Go, and from now on sin no more.”
Truly, in the Holy Liturgy of the Divine Service, you live your life in Jesus’ speech. His “Word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” The Law remains, but it no longer condemns. St. Paul describes your life in Christ in his Epistle to the Church in Corinth saying, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Thus, you must not take up stones of condemnation to throw at your brother or sister in Christ, or at your neighbor, for your Lord Jesus has borne the condemnation you, and all, have rightly deserved, and there is now no one to condemn you. Therefore, do not condemn one another, but forgive, as you have been forgiven. “And above all,” St. Paul continues, “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body [His Bride, the Church]. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly [in the Holy Liturgy of the Divine Service], teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.