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This Sunday's Programme

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5th Sunday Lent C

Sunday 3rd April 2022

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 8:1-11

Jesus spent the night in the Mount of Olives and early the next day went again to the Temple, where all the people gathered round to listen while he sat and taught. Then the religious leaders brought in a woman who had been caught while in the very act of committing adultery. And they brought her out to stand there, right in the midst of them. They then said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught committing adultery, right in the very act! Now, in the Law, Moses has told us to stone people like this. What do you have to say?’ They said this to trap him, so that they could make accusations against him. So Jesus bent down and wrote in the dirt as though he hadn’t heard nothing.

But when they persisted with their questioning, he stood up straight and said to them, “The person amongst you who is without sin, that person can throw the first stone.” and he bent down again and continued to write in the dirt. When they heard this, they went away, one at a time, beginning with the seniors, till Jesus was left alone with the woman, standing there. When Jesus stood up again, he saw no-one but the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Is there no-one to condemn you?’ he asked. ‘No-one, Master.’ ‘Neither do I condemn you. But go and from now on do not sin anymore.’

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 125

When God freed Zion from captivity,
we felt we were dreaming.
Laughter bubbled in our mouths
and we sang for sheer joy.

Even the pagans proclaimed
‘Look what great things God had done for them!’
Yes, indeed God had done great things for us.
We were overjoyed.

Now come again God to us in captivity.
Free us like streams in the south.
Let those who sow in tears
shall reap, singing in jubilation.

Those who go forth in tears
bearing precious seeds
will doubtless return in joy,
carrying their harvest.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you know the accusations that swirl in my life – from other people and from my own heart. Give me your Spirit that I may face my sins and failures squarely and in the loving gaze of Jesus know your love, and sin no more.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This extraordinary story, so beautifully told, witnesses to the strange way in which the Scriptures have come together. While it was known in the early Church around the year 100 AD, it does not appear in the earliest and best Manuscripts. St Jerome knew it and included it in his Vulgate translation of the Scriptures, which is probably why it is so well known in the Western Church. St Augustine preached on it magnificently. But it was unknown in the Eastern Church until around the year 1000. Even in the West, it has occupied various places in the Gospel. The most common being in the Gospel of John even though it clearly isn’t written in the Johannine style, nor does it cover any Johannine themes. In fact, the more logical place for it is in the Gospel of Luke. Despite its odd provenance, it is one of the most touching Gospel texts.

The dynamic is familiar. The religious authorities are clearly out to get Jesus. This time they use a person clearly caught in a sin condemned by Moses. If Jesus is to uphold the Law, he must condemn this woman, and lose his name for compassion. The woman herself is irrelevant to their accusations. It is Jesus they are gunning for and in their heartless accusation of her, we see the lengths to which they will go to get him. We also see that they are not such careful upholders of the Law as they think they are. The peculiar thing is that the Law condemns both partners in an act of adultery. If she was caught in the act, where was the man?

Jesus turns an angry crowd intent on murder into a number of embarrassed individuals. How does he do it? First, by ignoring them. Righteous angry people take themselves so seriously. By dropping to the ground, doodling in the dust, he takes the wind out of their sails. Then whatever he writes has the effect of awakening and unsettling their consciences. It is effective. When they have all withdrawn, then and only then does he deal with the woman’s sin. First, he addresses her as a person with dignity, giving her a chance to comment on her accusers. Then he offers he the chance to change her life. The one who had so recently been staring death in the face is now invited to live in the fullness of life.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

What did Jesus write? That is a burning question for whatever he wrote turned a murderous self-righteous mob into individual people, embarrassed by their own sins, slinking away – extraordinary. Ever since the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake, we humans have exhibited an extraordinary ability to fixate on other’s sins and ignore our own. Indeed, I think our central problem with sin is not that we sin but that we refuse to face up to what we have done, take responsibility, and then be in a position to receive the forgiveness God so readily wants to offer us. While we evade with our excuses and blame others, God is left with tied hands. How can we accept forgiveness if we do not accept that we have done wrong?

Yet Jesus somehow got through to this mob – one of the few instances when he was successful – as he was with the woman as well. He wants to do that with us. We, each of us, need to stop and ask ourselves, what is that niggling darkness on the edge of our consciousness that we ignore? What behaviour of ours do we blame on others? What would Jesus write in the dust to help us face ourselves? Jesus wants us to recognise these behaviours – not to condemn us for he offers, not death, but life.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

What a day for this woman! Imagine it. The excitement of meeting her lover, the joy turned to horror as they are caught, the humiliation of being dragged through the streets, probably half-naked, by a murderous mob, the terror of standing in the midst of their screaming questions calling for her stoning. Then the silence while the mob walks away, one by one. Being left alone with this obviously holy man. The simple question that makes her state that they have gone,…gone. Could one believe it? His expectation that she can speak, and speak for herself. Then the simple tough command that was also a judgment – not a judgment to condemn but one for life, more radical than being stoned, for this judgment told her that there was life beyond her sin. She could change, she could repent. She was a human being capable of living with dignity and in goodness.

Jesus offers us also that same radical challenge. Oh, he knows our sins. He doesn’t need a mob to tell him about our sins and miserable failures. But he does need us to face them. Then his forgiveness, ever ready, can become a reality in our lives. We need to stop the murderous accusations, we make against others and ourselves. We need to stand still, and listen to Jesus in order to accept and allow his grace to work through our lives.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Art Works

  • This is an unusual depiction of the scene by Brueghel (click red text).
  • Boulogne’s Christ and the Adultress (click red text).
  • This painting by Polenov shows how dramatic the initial accusations must have been. (click red text).
  • This painting by HiQi shows the imminent violence. (click red text).

Movies

  • Who will love my Children?
  • Pay it Forward
  • John Q

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on how people criticise others and ignore their own failings. Watch what happens in yourself when conversation turns to criticism of others. Do you find compassion rising in you or self-righteousness.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

Recall an incident when you were caught out doing something wrong. How did the attitude of the person/s who found you out affect you?
Imagine if they were harsh and critical?
Imagine if they were indifferent?
Imagine is they recognised your wrong but wisely, challenged you to be a better person?
Recall now some behaviour of your own that you feel ashamed of or would like to change in your life. Ask Jesus to come to you and say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Rest in the love of your God.

Suggestions for the Programme

The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.

DAILY PRAYER

Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Our Father
Prayer

Or

Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
Psalm
Our Father

PRAYER

Staff Prayer
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.

Example
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Reflection
Invitation for share reflections
Our Father
Prayer

Another Example
Hymn
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
Psalm
Our Father
Prayer

  • I have loved you by Michael Joncas
  • Shepherd me, O God by Marty Haugen
  • The Lord is king and merciful by Tom Booth
  • I heard the voice of Jesus say Traditional