Monday, April 7, 2014
Imploring God's Mercy
If we read Monday's Gospel account of Jesus saving the life of the woman whom the Pharisees caught in adultery on the surface, focusing only on the Lord's rebuke of the men who wanted to stone the accused to death, we might miss out on the deeper message.
The elders had found the woman in the midst of the grievous sin of adultery, and, seized by bloodlust, they wanted her executed. The scene is somewhat similar to the reading from the Book of Daniel, where the innocent Susanna was threatened with execution on a bogus charge of adultery, only, in Susanna's case, the two elders were guilty.
In the first reading, young Daniel condemns the lecherous judges to a violent death for falsely accusing Susanna. On the other hand, in the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges the men wanting to kill the adulteress to look into their own lives and see the seriousness of the sins that they, themselves have committed. One by one, beginning with the elders, the lynch mob disperses.
After Jesus is left alone with the adulterous, he does something remarkable. He does not condemn her; however, he warns her about sin. For Jesus, the life of her soul is just as important as the life of her body. He had literally saved her from physical death; his main concern now is to save her from the eternal death that comes from sin.
Sin is a very painful reality. Unfortunately, the modern age tends to sugar coat the real danger that sin poses to us. Even the music that has crept into the Church over the course of 40 years downplays the need for repentance and ignores the fact that we stand in need of God's mercy. Songs like "Beyond the Days" and "Ashes" tend to make the Lenten season somewhat syrupy, focusing on either social justice or some other sappy theme.
The chant par excellence for the Lenten season, the "Attende Domine", brings home the point that we are sinners. We stand in stark need of God's mercy. Like the woman caught in adultery, we stand bare before God in sorrow. Although the above video, taken from the 2010 Papal Ash Wednesday Mass, features the chant in its original Latin, below, is a translation of the 10th century prayer.