Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt

22 March 2010

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.

21 March 2010

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”


A couple of years ago there was a book that was number one on the New York Times best seller list called The Shack.  It is a remarkable book for both its subject and its theme, and it’s one of those books that grips you. It also gets you thinking. This is the blurb on the back cover: “Mack Phillips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.
“Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.”
You can imagine the rage Mack feels toward the man who committed this crime.  You can imagine how he tortured himself with guilt for not preventing the abduction to begin with. Mack wants justice; he wants God to judge that man and to send him to hell. Mack lets God know that he doesn’t really trust God.
God offers Mack a chance to be the judge. Of Mack’s five children he can choose two to spend eternity in heaven the other three must go to hell. Mack is in a dilemma. How could he send even one of his children to hell even if that one committed a heinous crime? Mack in desperation offers to go to hell himself to spare his children. He then becomes aware of two things: the sacrifice Jesus made to save us from damnation, and the unconditional love God has for all his children.
In today’s gospel Jesus is faced with a dilemma—how to balance justice and mercy. He knows the scribes and Pharisees aren’t really interested in upholding the Law of Moses, rather, they are trying to entrap him. If he takes the woman’s side they will accuse him of ignoring the Law. If he holds to the letter of the Law they will put into question his message of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus calls their bluff by offering the one without sin to throw the first stone. Shamed by the challenge they walk away leaving Jesus alone with the woman.
Turning to her he now can deal with her directly but mercifully. Jesus does not condemn, but instead forgives the woman and sends her on her way with the counsel to sin no more. Contrite and resolute, she now obeys the law not just for the law’s sake, but with a renewed conscience she can now reform her behavior according to the mercy that Jesus has shown her. Jesus does away with the notion that our relationship with God is set out in rules and laws. He shows that the mercy and compassion of God go beyond the authority of the Law.
This is the conversion we are all called to. Jesus wants us to imitate him. We are to show mercy, compassion and forgiveness to those who wrong us. God’s freely given gift of forgiveness is passed on every time we offer forgiveness and compassion to one another. As for justice, we see that God does indeed pass sentence, but it is sin he condemns, not people. Instead of dismissing the woman’s sin, Jesus shows the sinfulness of all by daring the sinless to cast the first stone. Rather than saying sin is unimportant, he makes it too important for mere humans to judge.
Back to The Shack, Mack learns that the only way he will have the peace and healing he desires is to let go of the anger he has toward those who have hurt and wronged him. When he does this he finds he can live with himself once again. The ultimate folly of pride is to love our sin and our anger so much that we can’t even forgive ourselves much less anyone else. It will only destroy us in the long run.
On Ash Wednesday we accepted ashes with the words, "Believe in the Gospel, and turn away from sin." The message at the very core of the Gospel is mercy and forgiveness. In this season of lent, who is the one that we are called to reconcile with? Who needs to hear from us, “I do not condemn you?” Who do we need to forgive as our Father in heaven has forgiven us?
Once again we see that the readings of Lent have less to do with mortification and penance than with God’s graciousness and our response of joy and thanksgiving. We rejoice in our deliverance by God; we rejoice in the abundant blessings showered upon us. We rejoice that we have been called into God’s family; we rejoice that we have been forgiven of our sins. The cause of our joy cannot be stressed enough. The cause of our joy is God who is so good! So generous! So forgiving! The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!

No comments: