Reflection for the fifth Sunday of Lent – Year C

by Fr Martin McCormack s.d.b. MA.LPC

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We live in a land where gender based violence is prevalent. I have experienced this up close and personal twice since I’ve come to Eswatini. Most recently three years ago in Malkerns with the murder of Nobantu Sukati. Is there any regard for women I ask some days.? In the gospel this morning we see The scribes and Pharisees had no regard for the woman. They were only interested in using her to try to trap Jesus. She was a pawn in their game of chess. They had no regard for the fact that maybe she did not initiate the sin, perhaps it was the man. But Jesus is full of compassion.

He restored the woman again, in two ways. He restored her spiritually by forgiving her, telling her He did not condemn her, while also insisting that she does not sin again, and He restored her to society by saving her life. No one knows what Jesus wrote on the ground but some people suspect Jesus wrote the sins of the scribes and Pharisees. Notice also that it was the eldest who went away first. The eldest had committed more sins, those who had lived longer had more to be sorry about in their own lives. The woman received forgiveness from Jesus and also received her life back again.

How do you forgive the unforgivable? This is a question raised by Simon Wiesenthal’s book ‘The sunflower”.  Simon was a Jew in the concentration camp in World War 2. He had watched helplessly as his mother and father were shoved into one of those railway box never to be seen again. He had seen his mother-in-law machine gunned, right in front of his eyes. His pain was extremely intense. He tells his story on how he was in the concentration camp and how a nurse came out to where he was working tapped him on the shoulder, and told him to follow her into a make shift hospital – a small room on a single bed, there was a person wrapped in bandages this person was going to die soon.

The Nurse leaves him alone with this patient on the bed . The bandaged body begins to speak he says he is a 21 year old Nazi – a member of the dreaded SS. He had been a Catholic but joined the SS. His mission was to exterminate Jews to herd them into barns and then set the barns on fire – and have nests of machine guns ready to exterminate those who might escape. He explains how he got careless and got caught in cross fire and was riddled with bullets. Now he wants forgiveness from a Jew. He said I was not born a murderer and don’t want to die as one. Simon’s response was to get up and walk out without granting forgiveness. In his book he asks would you have granted it? Was forgiveness possible? The gospel today says forgiveness is possible. That Jesus forgives.