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Neither Do I Condemn You, Mercy and Reconciliation

By Fr. James Farfaglia
3/21/2010 (7 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Encounter between Jesus and adulterous woman; every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

'Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and sin no more.'

"Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more."

Highlights

By Fr. James Farfaglia
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/21/2010 (7 years ago)

Published in Lent / Easter


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In order to prepare this week's homily, I turned to a couple of Bible commentaries that I like to use in order to get my thoughts started.  I was amazed to learn that there had been a long historical debate concerning whether this passage of Scripture was really part of the inspired writings of the Holy Bible. The discussion did not end until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) which officially declared that this gospel narrative is to be considered a part of the canon of the Bible.  

The controversy surrounded the mercy and kindness of Jesus towards the woman accused of the sin of adultery.  Some Fathers of the Church, theologians and Biblical scholars thought that the gospel narrative was showing a Jesus that was too condescending to sin.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit, working through the Council of Trent, gave us definitively this very beautiful part of the Gospel.

Nevertheless, the debate does focus our attention on the mercy and kindness of Jesus.  Jesus has compassion towards the sinful woman.  Jesus does not excuse the sin.  He condemns the sin, but does not condemn the sinner.  

"Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She replied, 'No one, sir.' Then Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more'" (John 8: 10-11).

The mercy and kindness of Jesus are so amazing.  I really do not understand why there was such a controversy regarding this passage of the Gospel.  Is there anything in this passage that contradicts the rest of the Gospel?  Is it possible to forget these amazing words in the same Gospel of John: "Yes, God loved the word so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.  For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved" (John 3: 16-17).  

My dear friends, we experience the mercy and kindness of Jesus through the awesome Sacrament of Confession.  This Sunday's gospel passage allows us to consider the nature of sin and the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. 
   
What is sin?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition:
"Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law" (CCC #1849).

Scripture tells us that actual sin is divided into two classifications: mortal sin and venial sin. "There is a sin that leads to death..." (1John 5:16).  "Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death" (1John 5:17).

Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession..." (CCC #1456).

Just like all the other sacraments of the Church, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession.  The Church has always understood the Scriptural reference for the Sacrament of Confession to be John 20: 22-23: "Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained". 

What an immense gift we have been given!  The Sacrament of Confession is an enormous source of interior peace.  The priest raises his hand, and then with a blessing pronounces those amazing words: I absolve you from your sins.  At that moment, we know that God has heard our cry for forgiveness, and we have been pardoned of our sins.  "God, create a clean heart in me, put into me a new and constant spirit, do no banish me from your presence, do not deprive me from your holy spirit" (Psalm 51: 10-11).

For me, the Sacrament of Reconciliation has been, along with the Eucharist, my greatest source of strength and peace during my journey with the Lord Jesus.  As a parish priest, my greatest joys are celebrating the Eucharist for my people and hearing confessions.  I am overjoyed when people go to confession on a regular basis, and one of my heaviest crosses as a priest has been the rejection of confession by many people.  If they only knew what would give them such peace and happiness. 
   
My dear friends, we are getting ready to enter into the most important week of the year.  Yes, Holy Week will soon begin.  Let us remember the importance of the Sacrament of Confession.  

Every time we go to confession we encounter the merciful and kind Jesus.  The repentance of our sins and the forgiveness that we receive allows us to experience true peace.  

However, as I have said before, do not be surprised and do not be discouraged by the fact that the spiritual life is and always will be a continual battle.  Embrace your own inner poverty.  Here is where true humility lies.  It is by recognizing our own sinfulness and our own inner poverty that we are able to allow Jesus into our lives.  This is exactly what happens to the adulterous woman.  She did not argue with Jesus!  She did not say that she had not sinned!  She did not justify her sin!  So many of our contemporaries deny the existence of sin!  So many of our contemporaries justify their own sinful behavior!  The only way that we can experience the presence of Jesus in our lives is by recognizing who we really are: sinful creatures in need of redemption.

"Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more".  

This Sunday's beautiful gospel narrative from John's gospel reminds us that Lent is about personal conversion and change.  Through the Sacrament of Confession we can conquer our sins and our evil inclinations.  We can all change.  We can all experience deep spiritual progress.  Change and progress are always possible.  

The encounter between Jesus and the adulterous woman reminds us that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.  

"Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She replied, 'No one, sir.' Then Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more'" (John 8: 10-11).

-----
   
Father James Farfaglia is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum.  He has also published a book called Man to Man: a real priest speaks to real men about marriage, sexuality and family life

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