LECTIO DIVINA: 5th Sunday of Lent (C)
INVOKING THE HOLY SPIRIT
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128.4).
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the Temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.
Then the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. John.
Well, everyone judges his like: a man judges another man, a mortal on another mortal, a sinner on another sinner. But if the statement of the Lord is put in between them: “He who is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone at her,” does not everyone who judges the earth suffer an earthquake? Let us recall the passage of the Gospel.
To test the Lord, the Pharisees presented to him a woman caught in adultery, a sin for which a punishment had been established in the Law, i.e., the Law given by Moses, the servant of God. The Pharisees therefore, approached the Lord with this deceptive and tricky dilemma. If he commanded to stone that defamed woman, he would lose his meekness; if, on the contrary, he prohibited what is established by the Law, he would be a Law breaker.
To those who asked about paying tribute to Caesar, he caught them in their own words, asking them whose coin were they showing him and whose image and whose inscription were engraved in it? Those who asked him said in reply that in the coin was found the image of Caesar. Taking their own words, he replied: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. This was to remind them that they had to give to God the image of God in man, as to Caesar is given the image engraved in the coin.
In a similar way, as is also in the case of the adulterous woman, he also asked the inquirers themselves, thus judging the judges themselves. He says: “I don’t prohibit you from stoning her whom the Law commands to be stoned, but I ask: By whom is she to be stoned? I do not oppose the Law, but I seek who must execute it?” Finally, listen: “Do you want to stone her according to the Law?” He who is without sin let him be the first to throw stone at her.
While he was listening to their words, Jesus was writing on the ground with his fingers to instruct the earth; but, while he was saying this to the Pharisees, he raised his eyes, he looked at the earth and made it tremble. After he had said this, he began again to write on the ground. Distressed and fearful, they started to file out one after another. Oh, earthquake in which the earth moved so much as to shift its poles!
Thus it was that, when the Pharisees had departed, the Savior was left with the sinner; the sick and the physician remained; misery and mercy were left. And looking at the woman he said: “Has no one condemned you? She said: “No one, Lord.” Despite everything, she remained preoccupied. The sinners did not dare condemn her; they did not dare to stone the sinner, those who upon looking into themselves found themselves in equal footing as she. But the woman continued in serious danger, because the judge who has remained is without sin. He says: “Has no one condemned you?” She answered: “No one, Lord” and if neither do you, then I am secure. Seeing this preoccupation, the Lord, answered her in encouraging tone: “Neither will I condemn you.” Though I am without sin, “Neither will I condemn you.” Their own conscience impeded them to condemn you; I am drawn by forgiveness and mercy (s. 13, 4-5).
With the text let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “He who is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone” (Jn 8:7).
- How many stones do you throw at those with whom you live, because you judge them, you condemn them and you have no patience?
- Up to what point does your pride bring you that you do not see your own sins, and makes you feel better and more holy than the others?
- “Thus, when the Pharisees had departed, there remained the sinner and the Savior; there remained the sick and the physician; there remained the misery and mercy” (s. 13, 5).
- The sinful woman could not deny her sin, you, how do you stand before God at this moment?
- In your life, what need do you have of God’s mercy?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate the woman dragged before Christ and the Pharisees who wanted to stone the woman. Contemplate how Christ serenely writes on the ground, and how, ever so slowly, all who were accusing the woman retreated. Contemplate the final scene of forgiveness given to the sinner. Contemplate and adore.
- Identify yourself with the sinner and feel profoundly the guilt of your sins, but at the same time experience, like the woman in the Gospel, the forgiveness and the infinite mercy of Christ. Experience the infinite love of Christ for all men.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about not judging others, and the experience of God’s infinite mercy. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
FINAL PRAYER OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our minds, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).