As I reflected on this Sunday’s Gospel, the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery struck me. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
What must it have been like for this woman who was known for and identified by her sin? When Jesus forgives her she stands as a new creation, freed from her past.
Nevertheless, Jesus is aware that, while she is cleansed of her sin, she will encounter the same temptations, the same situations, and the same people and therefore cautions her and instructs her very clearly.
Jesus does not gloss over the fact that she has sinned. But he does look upon her with a gentle and merciful gaze because he wants to heal her from the harm wrought in her soul by sin. He desires to free her from the clutches of the evil one and give her the grace to follow the path God has for her.
We are given these same instructions every time we leave the confessional and after Mass to “go and sin no more.” In fact, they are of particular significance during our Lenten journey, a season of repentance and conversion of heart.
Jesus does not condemn us but he does take our sins seriously. He died for them, after all! He does not desire perfection for its own sake, but for our own freedom, that we might be restored to our original dignity and be drawn closer to His Sacred Heart.
But what if we don’t feel ready to change? What if we are not sorry? If you think you are the only person who struggles with these problems and questions, know that you have at least one other friend out there who finds herself in the midst of this struggle.
Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on ourselves to conquer our resistance to grace! The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel remind us that we are not bound by our past. Jesus’ redemptive and transformative grace is more powerful than if we had never sinned, because “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This kind of healing love is the answer to our feeble hearts.
Few people know that the Sacrament of Confession is a healing Sacrament. Only recently did I come to know this fact. So, sometimes when I approach the confessional, knowing that my heart is not “firmly resolved to sin no more” but willing it to be, I confess this state of my soul and ask for the healing necessary to be free from whatever is holding me back from doing the will of God and from letting go of my attachment to sin.
As we see in the image of the woman caught in adultery, the Lord comes to us, his children, as we are, knowing our sinfulness and our inability to choose the narrow path over what is easy. He not only forgives us but gives us a share in his power to resist temptation and choose life.
This invitation by Jesus to start anew reminded me of the following passage from the Old Testament that I encourage you to take to heart during your Lenten pilgrimage.
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deut 30: 19b, 20a).
The next time you enter the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or the Confessional, consider asking the Lord for this healing, to choose life.
When you leave Mass or exit the Confessional and hear those beautiful words of the priest, “go in peace,” remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel today and remember that his healing and grace is with you.