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Do You Do Windows?

March 23, 2015

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.  The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.  “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly.  Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”  Her husband looks on, remaining silent.  Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments.  A month later, the woman is surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she finally learned to wash correctly.  I wonder who taught her this?”  The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

A month ago, I stood up here, and we were reminded in that first week of Lent from Leviticus Ch. 19 – Judge your fellow man justly.  How have we done?  How do you feel we have done collectively?  How would others – the people we befriend, or meet, or cross-paths with, or look sideways at, or look away from, or think critically of – how would they see us?  Whether we notice or not, we are being examined closely by the world.

It’s Lent.  It’s good to talk about these things.

the innocent and the just you shall not put to death

Joakim – whose name means ‘the Lord will judge’ – was the most respected of all the Jews in Babylon.  And his beautiful, faithful wife Susanna – whose name means, ‘lily’ – was wrongly accused.  The lily in the Joakim’s garden versus two powerful judges.  The judges, who in their lust and deceit, raise the crowd against Susanna, and wickedness seems to rule the day.  But Daniel comes forward, and he reminds us all, that the Lord says, “the innocent and the just you shall not put to death.”  For their calumny and lust they pay the ultimate price.  But in this first reading – who is let off the hook?  The crowd!!  They jumped to conclusions based solely on the prestige of these evil men.  Don’t we do that?  Don’t we get on the bandwagon?  Oh that politician, did you not see the facts on Facebook?  Or oh, these arguments are irrefutable: my friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law told him.  It must be true.  And so on, and so on.  Thankfully, Susanna received justice.

So what about the woman clearly caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, in order to trip him up?  Here now we have the evidence we need!  Much has been made of this Gospel account.  The evidence is there.  The trap is set.  Some people make noise about, where is the man who laid with her?  Based on the story of Susanna, the precedent was there – he was of no consequence.  This was about tricking the Lord.  Some scholars have proposed that the writing on the ground was a list of the accuser’s names and their own sins.  Dr. Scott Hahn recalls a warning from Jeremiah 17: 13; that those who forsake the Lord “shall be written in the earth.”  One of my favorites, Father Bruce Vawter, suggests that maybe Jesus was just idly doodling in the dust to express his disinterest!

These are two powerful readings that find us right in the middle of the crowd.  Don’t we find ourselves with strong arguments, do we find ourselves in righteous indignation about the goings on in our day?  But we must temper ourselves – and others in our crowd: it is not about punishment, it is not about being right.  And it is certainly not about being better.  If two people approach the altar, and both are following the tenets of our faith, should we categorize them if one is perfectly coifed and attired, and one is an unwashed, unclean, and undesired?  Remember the Pharisee and the tax collector?  Remember, the lesson here – and apply it somewhere in the course of your day: it’s not that sin is of no importance, nor that God does not punish sin, but that God extends mercy to the sinner so that they may turn away from their sin.  When we are face to face with our own conscience, the best path offered is repentance.  Our actions may be the only Gospel that someone ever reads.

 

Love & justice,

Papa

 

March 23, 2015, Fifth Monday of Lent:

Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things charged against me.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 23: 4ab – R.  Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.

John 8:1-11.  Let the person without sin be the first to throw a stone.

 

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