Do not throw stones at others - Jesus forgives you - Do not sin again

Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

(Naturally I began by speaking about Pope Francis)

Jesus has two conversations in the Gospel today (John 8:1-11) and both are revealing. In the first conversation Jesus talks with the scribes and Pharisees and in the second he talks with the woman. In the first conversation the scribes and Pharisees show themselves as most uncaring and completely lacking in compassion for the poor woman. How that poor woman must have been suffering, a suffering that was increasing as they were using her to try to trap Jesus to say something against the Law. How does Jesus respond? He says the one without sin can throw the first stone (John 8:7). That puts an end of the ugly situation. There is no one without sin and so no one can throw a stone at the poor woman. Some people may react the same now, wanting to throw stones although the stones are different. The stones now are gossip and hurtful words about somebody, or posting something wicked about someone on the internet, or even just thinking wicked things about someone. Instead we can pray for others. There are so many different ways to throw stones now but the thing to remember from this conversation of Jesus with the scribes and Pharisees is that no one can throw stones at another. All have sinned and it is not up to us to throw stones at another. If we become aware of the sin of another or simply don’t like someone, we can pray for them but not throw stones at them.

There is one time we all throw stones. If we were to be brutally honest, we would have to admit that every time we sin we throw stones. Every time we sin we throw stones at Christ. Our sins are refusals to place Christ first, our sins are stones that hurt Christ all over again each time. So instead of throwing stones at others when we don’t like them or when we become aware of their sins, we do something much worse, we throw stones at Christ himself every time we sin.

The second conversation is between Jesus and the woman. Jesus said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11) Jesus treated the woman so differently to the way the scribes and Pharisees treated her. They were condemning and threatening to stone her. Instead Jesus did not condemn her. What a contrast. There is a difference between the way society may think of you and the way Jesus thinks of you. If the woman thought of herself the way those around her did, what an error that would be. There is only one way to think of yourself, the way Jesus thinks of you. Your value is not what others say about you but what Jesus would say about you. The way others think of you may be tainted by their human imperfections and sins and prejudices. Instead Jesus lifts you above all that to who you really are in the eyes of God. What you think about yourself should be founded on what Jesus thinks of you, not the thoughts or condemnations of others. Jesus wants you to be free from the meanness and prejudices and small-mindedness of others. Since Jesus has freed you from all of that, live with the freedom and value Jesus gives you.

Jesus also said to the woman, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:11) Now Jesus has drawn a line between her past and her future. Jesus does two things at once; he forgives her but he also challenges her to reform her life. He forgives her past sin but he expects no more sin in the future. Jesus releases her from her past but she must not return to her former way of life ever again. Jesus loves her despite her past but he expects her to overcome sin after meeting him and be completely different after meeting him. One cannot meet Jesus and be the same afterwards. One cannot meet Jesus and continue sinning. The experience of the woman is what we experience when we come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We come to Jesus because we have sinned; Jesus forgives us through the priest, and tells us not to sin again.

The conversations Jesus had with others in the Gospel today leave us much to think about as we draw near the conclusion of Lent. We are not to throw stones at others. Instead we can pray for others. I add that unfortunately we throw stones at Jesus every time we sin. Jesus frees you from the past, and also asks you to reform and be completely different after meeting him. Jesus draws a line between your past and your future. He forgives you but asks you not to sin again.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C

The Woman Caught in Adultery - “Go and Do Not Sin any more” because sin damages us and the whole Church

Will we be transformed at the end of Lent? - Go and sin no more 2010

Related Homilies: Penance Service Homily

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If you love me you will keep my Commandments

Why confess sins to a priest?

stories about God’s Mercy

stories about confession of sin

stories about sin