STONE THE SIN NOT THE SINNER HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY LENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Stone the sin not the sinner

Some time ago, there was a viral video showing a nanny abusing a helpless child. She would abandon the baby at a corner and would intermittently slap and shake him violently while also shouting at him. The background to the story relates that the parents were becoming uneasy about the physical appearance of the child each time they return. Consequently, they resolve to install hidden surveillance cameras in the house to monitor the activities of the nanny in their absence.

When the parents confronted the nanny for molesting their child, she denied the and was even ready to swear by the graves of her dead parents. She continued to deny the allegations until she saw the footages of the physical abuse from the various cameras in the house. It was at that point that she broke down in tears and accusing the devil of influencing her actions.

In our contemporary times, surveillance cameras (CCTVs) are excelling in catching people in the very act of committing various crimes and missteps like robbery, trespassing, vandalism, traffic offences, murder, sexual misconducts and a whole lot of other anti-social and immoral conducts.

Today, in the Gospel (John 8:1-11) we encounter the Scribes and the Pharisees using the “natural CCTV” (the human sight) to catch a woman in the very act of adultery. The catchers bring the woman to Jesus and ask for his opinion while quoting the Law of Moses which prescribes death by stoning for such a sexual crime.

Replying, our Lord says to them, “let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” While waiting for their response, he bends down to write on the ground. As our Lord Jesus Christ writes, the accusers of the woman exit one after another beginning with the eldest among them until the youngest.

Examining the event, our attention goes to the intention of the Scribes and Pharisees for bringing the woman to Jesus. The Gospel tells us that they brought the allegations against the woman to our Jesus Christ to test him so that they could have some charge to bring against him.

We understand here that they were using the woman as a bait and as a victim in the line of advancing their plot against Jesus. Beyond this, they gave the wrong information about the law of Moses. The legislation concerning adultery are the following:

  • Leviticus 20:10 – If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
  • Deuteronomy 22:22 – If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So, shall you purge the evil from

Looking at these references closely, we understand that these Scribes and Pharisees were not in any way trying to protect the law otherwise they would have provided the male partner in the crime while also giving the right version of the law. Furthermore, the woman says nothing; of course, women in those contexts were not allowed to speak in public and not even in this situation where there are more than two witnesses.

Stone Your Sin Not the Sinner

The Scribes and the Pharisees in the narrative were smart, but our Lord Jesus Christ was more intelligent and more knowledgeable than them. In his reply, he did not condemn the woman, nor did he compromise the act instead he makes an appeal to their consciences, “let the one without sin be the first to throw a stone at her?”. With this critical challenge, our Lord indirectly tells them to stone their sins, not the sinner. He makes it clear to them that she is not the only one who has such a sin.

God Writes Our Sins on the Ground, not on Stones

It is interesting to see our Lord Jesus Christ physically writing for the first, and that would also be the last time. However, we should also not that he wrote more on people hearts through his words and works. In the passage, we learn that as our Lord was writing, the accusers of the woman started leaving the place beginning from the eldest to the youngest.

While the Gospel of John that reports this event did not tell us what our Lord was writing, we are left with making a connection between the process of writing and the chronological exit of the accusers. Some commentators say that he was writing their name and their respective sins or how many times they committed adultery and others have other views. Whichever way the arguments go, what is essential is that each of them had a personal connection with what he was writing, and they could not stand whatever they saw.

More significantly, our Lord decides to write on the ground and not on a stone as people who do in those days to demonstrate to us that God is not interested in holding our sins against us as whatever is written on the ground would be blown away by the wind of divine forgiveness. The instruction our Lord gives to the woman, “go and sin no more” goes ahead to confirm the mercy of God over our sins.

Moving Forward: Utilizing God’s Second Chance Offer!

Like the unnamed woman in the Gospel, God is continuously catching us in the very act of not just adultery, but of every single sin, we commit. God’s “surveillance apparatus” goes beyond our words and actions to the depths of our hearts. The Bible makes it clear that we cannot hide from God no matter how we try (Psalm 139:7-13).

Unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees, God is not interested in the death of a sinner but in their turning away from sin to live (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). God is giving us a second chance like the woman who was set free from the condemning claws of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Your life today is a profound statement from God that He is offering you a second chance for repentance. He wrote the commandment on stone as a permanent guide, but for our sins, he wrote on the sand to be blown away by the wind of his loving mercy.

For us to take the second chance from the Lord, there is the need for us to pay attention to words of St. Paul to the Philippians today (Phil.3:8-14), which tells us that he is considering everything as loss for the supreme good of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ. The accused woman could say the same thing because her encounter with Jesus Christ brought the ultimate transformation to her life. This could be your story this season of Lent if you would come to the Lord to admit and acknowledge stone your sins.

Have a beautiful Sunday and glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

One Comment on “STONE THE SIN NOT THE SINNER HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY LENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

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