GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
In closing for today, I’d just like to end with a quote from Augustine. He wrote a very beautiful series of homilies on the Gospel of John. And although the story of the woman caught in adultery is missing from some ancient Greek copies of John’s gospel, it’s not missing (or at least it wasn’t missing from St. Augustine’s ancient Latin copy of the gospel), so we’re blessed to have one of his homilies on this. One of the things Augustine wrestles with in his homily is the question of, “Is God condoning the sin of the adulteress by not having her put to death?” Isn’t God being a little too lenient here with what is obviously a very serious sin? Adultery is a grave sin. It not only violates the Ten Commandments, it breaks the marital covenant, it destroys families; it destroys homes. Think of all the human pain and suffering and tears and heartache and children who’ve been hurt by the sin of adultery. This is a very serious sin. How can Jesus just let the woman go and say, “Go and sin no more.”? What do we make of this act of our Lord? So Augustine looks at this passage that actually scandalized some Christians, and this is what he said about Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery:
[L]ook at the way our Lord’s answer upheld justice without forgoing clemency. He was not caught in the scare his enemies had laid for him; it is they themselves who were caught in it. He did not say the woman should not be stoned, for then it would look as though he were opposing the law. But he had no intention of saying: ‘Let her be stoned’, because he came not to destroy those he found but to seek those who were lost. Mark his reply. It contains justice, clemency, and truth in full measure... What is this, Lord, are you giving approval to immorality? Not at all. Take note of what follows: “Go and sin no more.” You see then that the Lord does indeed pass sentence, but it is sin he condemns, not people. One who would have approved of immorality would have said: ‘Neither will I condemn you. Go and live as you please; you can be sure that I will acquit you. However much you sin, I will release you from all penalty, and from the tortures of hell and the underworld’. He did not say that. He said: ‘Neither will I condemn you’: you need have no fear of the past, but beware of what you do in the future. ‘Neither will I condemn you’: I have blotted out what you have done; now observe what I have commanded, in order to obtain what I have promised.
And I’ll just say, especially to all those Catechumens coming into the Church at Easter time, remember this: what’s past is past. The Lord does not condemn you for what you have done. Now, go, sin no more and live a new life in Christ, either through the waters of baptism for those who are coming into the Church or through the graces of confession for those of us who are in it. Let us enter into the Easter season turning away from sin and turning our hearts and our minds to God.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
He describes salvation as being in
Christ — not just with Christ… in
Christ. So there’s not just relationship with, there is union with Christ for Paul. It goes deeper than just being with Him. It goes to being in
Him. And what does that mean? What does this mystical union look like? Well, Paul spells it out in the next verse. Verse 10, he says:
… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
So this is good. Union with Christ sounds really attractive and really great until you realize, “Oh wait, by union with Christ, Paul also means union with Christ crucified.”
The Greek here for “becoming like” Christ is symmorphizō
. I need to be morphed into Christ. I need to be transformed into Christ, and that means becoming like Him not just in His resurrection — which is very attractive, to become like Christ in resurrection means to live in glory for all eternity — but to become like Him, to symmorphizō
, to become like Him also in His death and His sufferings… by sharing in His sufferings, so that if possible, I might share in His resurrection.
So… what does that mean? It means that for Paul, salvation is essentially union with Christ and that the way this union is manifested in this world for sure is through suffering, is through suffering with Christ. If you want to be conformed to Christ, then you should expect to suffer with
Christ and suffer in
Christ, so that on the other side of that suffering, you might be raised
with Christ and raised in Christ.
So, that’s the foundation that Paul lays there, and then he goes on immediately and qualified: “I’m not there yet.” It’s very encouraging to me to hear Paul say, “Hey, look, I’m not there yet.” He says:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…
So the resurrection hasn’t happened yet. Paul is still living in this vale of tears. He’s still living in his own weak flesh, but:
… but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Notice here, in addition to the language of union, Paul uses almost nuptial language here, which he’ll use elsewhere. He’ll describe Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride. That seems to be what he’s implying here too, that in other words, Paul as a member of the Body of Christ, belongs to Christ like a spouse belongs to her husband. Paul will say elsewhere:
You are not your own…
So just as the bride belongs to the bridegroom, so too Paul belongs to Christ. Christ has made me His own. He says:
Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind…
So he’s not worried about his past. He’s not looking at how great of a Hebrew he was or how great of a Pharisee he was. I’m not looking back, but I’m pressing on:
… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So what does that mean? Paul is saying all of his focus is on the resurrection. His whole ministry, his whole apostolic life is pressing forward to the goal of sharing in the resurrection of Christ. But in order to do that — here’s the catch. In order to do that, he has to also be conformed to Christ crucified. I have to:
…share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
And that, I think, is a very challenging vision of the Christian faith. A lot of us would like to be baptized, have faith, and have a quiet, peaceful, nice little life until we give up the ghost, and we get to share in the heavenly glory and wait for the resurrection.
But if you’re a Christian, and you’ve been baptized and you’ve come to faith and you have the righteousness from God through faith in Christ, that’s not really what you signed up for. Paul is a lot more realistic, a lot more clear about union with Christ, what it means and what it looks like. And because Christ isn’t just Christ resurrected, He’s also Christ crucified. Then union with Christ, the outflowing of our baptismal identity, is going to manifest itself in suffering.
It’s not just inevitable; it’s the point. Because only through suffering can we be configured to Him fully, because only in suffering is it really that we will learn how to love like Christ loved. And that’s what He comes to do. He comes to manifest His love for the world. He does that through His suffering and death, and so to the extent that Paul is an ambassador for Christ who is going to make that Good News apparent — He’s not just going to say it in His words; He’s going to manifest it in His life. He’s going to live it out, because Christ has made him His own. And it’s the only way to the resurrection. You don’t get to Easter Sunday except through Good Friday.
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