‘Go and sin no more’

| Father Erich Rutten | April 3, 2019 | 0 Comments
Jesus writes in the sand

iStock/ginosphotos

In the face of sin, there seem to be two opposite reactions. First, we might react with anger and condemnation. We might have a tendency to become outraged. This certainly could be appropriate. We should hate sin. On the other hand, as Christians, we also know that we should be merciful. Sometimes this might mean that we hold our tongue or tell ourselves that whatever sin it was is not so bad after all.

These reactions play out in our everyday lives and in our culture. There are some who sense that we are in the midst of a culture war. They are quick to use social media to express outrage and condemnation of all the ills of our society. There are others who react against what they feel is judgmentalism and prefer to take the attitude of “live and let live.”

Jesus gives us a powerful example of a good way to react in the Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11). In the story, which we hear the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the authorities are trying to trap Jesus. If Jesus affirms the call to stone the woman, he would be challenging Roman law, which did not allow vigilante capital punishment, and he would be going against his own teachings. On the other hand, if he denied the call to stone the woman, he would be going against the law of Moses.

Jesus doesn’t take either bait. He doesn’t deny that adultery is a sin for this woman and for whomever she was with. He doesn’t deny that adultery, like all sin, has negative consequences. In a brilliant move of divine wisdom, Jesus provides that the one without sin may throw the first stone.

Of course, no one meets that qualification. They all leave. Neither does Jesus condemn her.

Notice that Jesus did not condone the sin, but he was not interested in condemnation either. In John 3:17, we are told that God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world. But neither does Jesus leave us in our dysfunction and sin. He comes to show us the way out. He is “the way, the truth and the life”(Jn 14:6). He comes to save us from ourselves and our sin. He does not wish to condemn us, but he clearly urges us to go and sin no more that we might have true life.

The Church, carrying on the mission of Christ, has a solemn responsibility to preach a very high standard — Jesus’ standard — of morality. To name sin clearly can help us to avoid it. If we don’t proclaim this high standard, who will? This is true even when members and ministers of the Church sin. We should not back off from hard teachings because they are hard.

But, the Church also has an equally solemn responsibility to serve as ambassadors of healing and reconciliation, as Paul reminded us last week (2 Cor 5:17-21). We have a responsibility to proclaim the great mercy of God. We know that we are all sinners, and we have no right to throw stones. Instead, we are called to confess our sins and to encourage each other to go and sin no more.

As we prepare for Holy Week and Easter, we give thanks for Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Let us receive the Lord’s forgiveness. Let us firmly recommit to go and sin no more.

Father Rutten is pastor of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul.


Sunday, April 7
Fifth Sunday of Lent

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Category: Daily Scriptures