Was Jesus “soft” on sin? Today’s gospel from John 8:1-11 about the way Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery could make some wonder if that is true. Bible scholars have some interesting takes as to why this passage is omitted by many ancient manuscripts of the gospel. This powerful narrative of Jesus and the accused woman is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts of John and appears in other important manuscripts after Lk. 21:38. Still, early Church authors, such as Papias (ca. A.D. 120) and the author of the Syriac “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (3rd cent.), knew of such an incident, and Jerome included it in his translation. For these reasons the story is judged canonical by Catholics.
It might have been omitted in some early rigorist traditions because the early Church, in its struggle to maintain strict penitential discipline, perhaps could not deal with the ease with which Jesus forgave the woman. In this episode Jesus seemed too “soft” on sin. Perhaps for this reason, the story was temporarily set aside by the early Church and was only later granted canonical approbation. This precisely is the reason why we need to emphasize this forgiving nature of God all the more. During these Lenten Sundays, we have been reflecting on this merciful love and unconditional acceptance of the sinner as the very nature of God. Pope Francis says:
“Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. “Great is God’s mercy,” says the Psalm.”
We experience this in a very special way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or ‘Confession’ – the name that we are more used to. Here’s what a blogger has written about this Sacrament so beautifully:
“Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. You can’t beat it for convenience. It’s available practically whenever. Tell a priest you want to go to confession and you’ll get his attention. One bishop I know was cornered on an airplane. Another passenger figured out what was going on and asked if he could confess too. It must have been an interesting game of musical seats. An interesting question for priests might be: Where was the strangest place you ever administered the sacrament of penance? The answers I’ve gathered include “in a sports bar, at a graduation party” and “on the golf course, walking up the fairway.”
As already announced, Msgr. Brennan and I have been available for Confessions on Mondays and Fridays after the 8 am Mass, besides the expanded time on Saturdays from 3 to 4:30 pm. This will continue for the remainder of Lent. Both of us have been noticing our parishioners utilizing these opportunities for “housekeeping for the soul” and also to feel a sense of inner freedom to experience a better relationship with God, self and one another. Next week as we enter Holy Week, we will be better prepared to commemorate and live the mysteries of our salvation that Jesus Christ brought us.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal