Monday March 14, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Lent
Reading (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62) Gospel (St. John 8:1-11)
In the readings today, we see on the one hand the justice of God, and on the other the mercy of God. The justice of God in the first reading is shown clearly when this woman who is falsely accused of committing adultery is exonerated because the Holy Spirit stirred up the spirit of Daniel so that the truth was able to be brought forth. We see the justice in the fact that the two people who had falsely accused this woman were brought to justice because of their evil intent to try to violate this woman who in fact was a pure and God-fearing woman. Then we see also the mercy of God, not only the mercy in freeing the just, but the mercy of God especially in the Gospel reading where we hear about this woman who is caught in the actual act of adultery. The Lord looks at her and says, I do not condemn you.
This is important for each one of us for two reasons. The first is because we know that God is just, so everything that we have done, if we do not deal with it, He will. Again, we have the opportunity to come to confession, to be able to confess our sins and to be forgiven; and in that way we see the second point, and that is the mercy of God, Who, if we come to confession, will look at each one of us and say, I do not condemn you. But then the other point that He makes is of critical importance to us. He says to this woman, Go and sin no more. That is exactly what He is saying to each of us.
It is not enough just to come to confession and confess your sins with the full expectation that you are going to go out and do them again with no true repentance. We have to truly repent, which means we have to turn around, we have to turn away from our sins, and we have to live an upright life. Now some of our sins, of course, are deeply rooted within our being and they do not just simply go away because we want them to. We have to work at them. And so chances are that we are going to fall over and over again until we get rid of the thing. But there is a difference between trying to overcome the sin and working to uproot it, and just simply confessing our sin but not really wanting to get rid of the sin. We have to want it gone, and we have to want it gone in a most serious manner because the point is that we do not want to be offending God.
Now when we look at the first reading, we could say, “Here was a God-fearing woman who was innocent and so God spared her.” Would we be able to say the same about our own selves? Can we really say that we are innocent? Maybe we are innocent of the particular charge, but how God-fearing are we? And how innocent are we? We realize that the justice is something that is due to us, and so we need to pray for God’s mercy. He is entirely merciful, but we have to ask for His mercy. And when we receive that mercy, then we have to do something to change our own lives. That is our response to what God has done for us: to realize the mercy and the forgiveness of sin, and to say, “Since this is what He has done for me, in return I am going to change my life so that I will be more God-fearing, so that I will be more loving, so that I will try to get rid of sin in my life to serve Him with a pure heart.” That is the desire the Lord has for us. He is just, but He is merciful; and if we come to Him in the confessional, His mercy will be ours. But again, we have to do something on our part as well, not just to confess the sin, but when we see the mercy that has been extended, to change our lives so that we will offend Him no more.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.