April 3, 2022: 5th Sunday of Lent
We love to make examples out of those who have erred and done wrong. Publicly punishing others serves as a means of demonstrating the consequences for what is deemed inappropriate or wrongful behavior. While this may appear an effective way of achieving conformity to established rules, it runs the real risk of distorting motivation. Obviously, we want people to do what is right and pursue healthy, virtuous behaviors and ideals. But is fear of punishment ever the best motivation for avoiding one action in favor of another?
Doing something out of fear is never healthy. Focusing exclusively on our behavior and what others expect or think, leads to living life with a self-focused superficiality. We become more concerned about protecting ourselves from something negative and unpleasant, than investing ourselves in the freedom, wonder and awe of being human! We can still find our way to the unacceptable or inappropriate behavior as long as we do not get caught! Being a whole, focused, and God-centered human being requires more. It demands an investment of the heart. Virtuous, moral, and mature lifestyles reflective of the Gospel necessitate love.
When we experience and recognize love, God’s unconditional love, in the depth of our soul, we fall in love with what we have found. We then find ourselves leaving destructive and sinful actions behind in search of something more holy, dignified, true, integral, and loving. This is really “mercy realized.” God’s tremendous, loving, eternal forgiveness and willingness to bring us back to something more real and tender is transformational. The respect for myself that I receive from God is so life changing that it causes me to run quickly away from anything sinful and self-destructive to things that are whole and holy.
There are many people who want nothing more than to judge or criticize us. What would actually stoning the woman caught in adultery really accomplish? Nothing more than the inflation of the already self-righteous egos of a few men who think they have power. They have no power because they are sinners too, just like everyone else. What all of us have is the humble ability to express sorrow for pursuing destructive thoughts and actions and receive the power of God’s mercy. Then, Jesus’ request to “go and sin no more” will be one we proudly heed and follow.