Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (2 & 3/4/22)

posted 4 Apr 2022, 06:11 by Parish Office

It’s not often that I base my homily on someone else’s work, but this time, what I’m going to say was originally given, in a slightly different form, by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. If you want to see the original, do a search on YouTube for Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “nice people”.

There can be two sort of people in society: those who follow the social conventions, and those that don’t. There are, what we could call, the “nice” people, and the “awful” people. Nice people, if they do something wrong, say, well, it wasn’t my fault. I was driven to it. I was poor, or, I was brought up rich, and that’s why I did it. With awful people, their sins are there for all to see, and they can’t claim to be good. Sometimes you come across people, and they break all the commandments. But people say, “but he’s so nice”, or, “she’s so nice”. And nice people say, well, every one else is doing it. But people don’t fault them, because they’re so nice. If they have a problem with alcohol, then people call them alcoholics, but it’s not really their fault, it’s a disease. With awful people, well, we call them drunkards.

One of the things about society is that it can’t tolerate people that are too good or too bad, which is why Our Lord was crucified between two thieves. The thieves were too bad for conventional morality, and Our Lord was too good.

So one day, Christ was in the Temple, and the nice people, the scribes and Pharisees, came to Jesus with a problem – one of these awful people had been caught committing adultery. They asked Our Lord, “What have you to say?” It was an ideal trap. You claim to be from God. We know that Moses spoke on behalf of God, and he said to stone people like this to death. If you don’t stone her, how can you claim to be from God? But if He does stone her, right in the capital city of Jerusalem, the Romans are going to find out, and only the Romans are allowed to put someone to death.

What should He do? He begins by writing on the ground with his finger. They pressed Him for an answer, and He said, “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. What was He writing on the ground? It doesn’t say, but one theory is that he was writing their sins. Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it like this: most of them had gone away, and just three were remaining. Our Lord pierced him with His gaze,

looking deep into his soul. He bent down on the ground and wrote “thief”, and the man dropped his stone and fled. Then He looked steadily at the second, then went back to the sand and wrote “murderer”. The second man ran away too. The third man was a young man, who, when he had arrived, had examined his neighbour’s stone, and made sure he had the heaviest one, and she had the lighter one. He was full of the judgment of youth. Our Lord penetrated deep into his soul and wrote “adulterer”, and the young man had to leave the scene as well.

Our Lord is left with the woman caught in adultery. He has been asked to condemn, or otherwise appear to condone adultery and completely undermine who He claims to be and His entire mission. But He does neither. He holds together in tension both the seriousness of the sin and the need to show mercy: “Neither do I condemn you … go away, and don’t sin any more”. He didn’t deny the gravity of the sin. He was going to die for it on the Cross. The nice people had been convicted of their sins and had left, without receiving pardon and absolution. The awful person had been convicted of her sin, remained, and received pardon and absolution.

The thing with the awful people is that there is no hiding, no cover-up, no psychological excuses – they admit they are guilty, that they are wrong. If they do anything good, they say it was the grace of God. If they see someone else doing something wrong, they think, “There but for the grace of God go I”, in other words, they could easily find themselves in the same situation, so who am I to condemn? The nice people have their excuses. But when people get to heaven, they will look around and say “Wow, look at him! How did he get in here?” And “What’s she doing in here?”. They will also be surprised at all those nice people that they expected to meet, who aren’t there. But you know the biggest surprise? The biggest surprise of them all, is that we are there.