Friday, March 11, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Jesus the Writer

Did Jesus write something which we can read now? Most of us who have read the four Gospels will certainly answer, No. As far as we know Jesus did not write anything which has been preserved for us to read today, although there is a legend that Jesus wrote to Abgarus, king of Edessa, Mesopotamia. This legend was started by Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, Palestine in the early fourth century.

Putting aside this legend Jesus did write and we find this in our Gospel reading today. But he did not write on a paper. He wrote on the ground of the temple precincts in Jerusalem. This writing was occasioned by the bringing in of a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. When they asked Jesus what he would do with this woman, he did not answer them. Instead he wrote something on the ground. Later after telling them that the one who thinks he has no sin should cast the first stone on the woman, he continued writing on the ground.

The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, "It is impossible to tell and therefore needless to ask what he wrote." Some Fathers of the Church, particularly Ambrose and Jerome, say that Jesus wrote on the ground the names of the woman's accusers. St. Thomas Aquinas has a different opinion. In his commentary on the Gospel of John he says that Jesus wrote down what he said to the accusers, which was, "Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast the stone at her."

Whether the Church Fathers Ambrose and Jerome were right in saying that Jesus on this occasion wrote the names of the woman's accusers on the ground we do not know. But we know for certain that Jesus liked to write names.

First, we notice that Jesus was fond of changing names of persons. He changed the name of Simon to Peter which signified rock. He changed the names of John and James to Boanerges, meaning sons of thunder. He also changed the name of Thomas to Didymus, meaning Twin.

Secondly in the book of Revelation we see that Jesus was going to write names. To the church of Philadelphia he said, "I will inscribe on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which he will send down from heaven, and my own name which is new." (3:12)

To the church of Pergamum he spoke, "To the victor I will give the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone upon which is inscribed a new name, to be known only by him who receives it" (2:17).

These passages tell us that Jesus likes to give new names to persons and to write names on persons.

But there is one passage in the Old Testament which gives us a clearer picture of Jesus' predilection or liking for names. In Isaiah 49:16 he tells Zion, the city of Jerusalem, "See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name". This saying can be applied to persons, not just to cities.

Jesus had a predilection or liking for names because for him names were not just a combination of letters, as they are for most of us. For Jesus and for the Jews of his time names did not just identify persons or things. They were the reality in sound of those persons and things. That is why in the prayer he taught us the first petition was for the name of God to be taken holy and sacred. Names were most important to Jesus.

Only Jesus knows who we really are. Only he knows the name to describe this reality that we are. As he spoke to the church of Pergamum he has given us a name which only he and we know. This name encompasses our reality. And it is this name which he has inscribed in the palm of his hand.

By inscribing our secret name in the palm of his hand Jesus is telling us that he loves us, he will carry us wherever he goes. He shows us he is the ultimate lover. Someone loves us more than we can ever know or imagine, someone who went through all the suffering and pain and death itself to free us from our sinfulness so that we can truly enjoy this whole universe that he made for us.

Jesus is a writer. But he does not just write anything. He likes to write names, the name of God, his own name, and our names.

Lent is the period of the year wherein Jesus shows us how much he loves us. He went through all the pains of the cross because he wanted to give us himself. We can only receive him if we accept the pardon he offers us so that our sins are blotted out and we come out clean as newly created in his image.

Our response can only be gratitude and fully surrendering ourselves to his love, to do with us whatever he wants. 

Let us bow down to pray.

Lord Jesus, you like to write our names and your name and the name of your Father in our souls. You have inscribed our names in the palms of your hands, proof that you love us. Your sufferings and death prove beyond doubt how much you love us. Make us love you more each day of our life. We fully surrender ourselves into your loving arms. Amen.

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