In today’s Gospel (John 8:1-11), we hear the familiar story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The law demanded that the punishment for the offense was death by stoning, but Jesus turns it around on the Pharisees when he utters the line famous to us as Christians, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In response, those who came to condemn her leave one by one and Jesus is left alone with the woman. He turns to her and says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
This scripture blatantly reminds us that we are all sinners and therefore it is not our right to judge others. However, it also reveals to us that sometimes our sin is what actually brings us before the Lord. The woman in the Gospel had to have been terrified, she knew she was guilty and she knew the law dictated a horrific death. However, her sin, which was the cause of this very moment in her life, carried her to Jesus where she experienced mercy unlike she could have ever imagined.
Her moment of human weakness altered the course of her life. It brought her before God who showed her only love and forgiveness despite her offense. In this moment, Jesus invited her to start her life anew, without sin, strengthened by his divine mercy. He gave her more time on earth, but more importantly he gave her another chance at eternal life. Where would she have ended up had she not been caught in the act of adultery and brought before the Lord? Perhaps not facing such a brutal death, but likely not facing eternity in heaven either.
Now don’t get me wrong; I am not condoning sin, but often we feel that not until we perfect ourselves will we be worthy to meet the Lord. We think, “If I just pray more, or be kinder, or less selfish, or more patient, then I can really be worthy of God’s love.” We feel undeserving of love as a result of our sinful human nature, and we sometimes get so convinced of our unworthiness that we almost stop seeking a relationship with God, thinking it hopeless as we fail over and over again.
The truth is, we are human, we will never reach the level of perfection needed to stand before God and feel worthy. Rather, our imperfectness – our sinfulness – is precisely what bring us into the merciful presence of Christ. Rather than keeping us from God, our sins should cause us to come before him to beg (time and time again) for his infinite mercy to renew our strength to live according to his teachings.
The sacrament of confession is God’s gift to us. It is a chance to meet him as we are, broken and sinful, and receive only his love in return. So long as we truly desire to know, love, and serve God and receive his mercy, then no matter what we have done, we are forgiven. Just like the adulteress in the gospel, we are set free to start again. We walk out of the confessional with renewed hope in eternal life.
As Lent comes to a close and Holy Week approaches, let us remember that Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for this very reason – to set us free from our sin. Take time to reflect on His passion, then go to confession and meet him face to face to receive his unbounded love and mercy and more fully enter into the joy of his rising on Easter morning.
This post also appeared on Catholic Mom.