Homilette for March 11, 2008

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; John 8:1-11)

In the famous “mercy speech” of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice the heroine Portia tells the spiteful Shylock that “earthly power thus then show likest God’s when mercy tempers justice.” Thomas Aquinas also assures us that mercy and justice run simultaneously in every judgment of God. Thus, we should not see mercy as the undoing of justice. Quite the contrary, mercy comprises a necessary dimension of justice because out of mercy justice achieves its end -- the rehabilitation of criminal defect.

In the gospel today Jesus manifests God’s justice when he shows mercy to the woman caught in adultery. He has already corrected society of its corrupt fascination with sexual crimes by reminding the people they too have sin on their shoes. Now he must change the adulteress’s heart lest she think that she may sin wantonly and get away with it. His judgment is as firm as it is clement, “`Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’”

Jesus shows himself a judge wiser than the sagacious Daniel in the trial of Susannah’s persecutors. His unfathomable wisdom indicates that he is the Messiah, the One God promised to send to save His people. In these last two weeks of Lent we want to contemplate how Jesus’ carries out this salvific mission. We should note his patience, his fortitude, and most of all his unswerving commitment to the will of His Father.