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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.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy,
Because we have sinned against Thee.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy,
Because we have sinned against Thee.

1. To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
We lift up our eyes
In weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.

2. Right hand of the Father,
Way of salvation,
Gate of heaven,
Wash away our
Stains of sin.

3. We beseech Thee, God,
In Thy great majesty:
Hear our groans
With Thy holy ears:
Calmly forgive
Our crimes.

4. To Thee we confess
Our sins admitted
With a contrite heart
We reveal the things hidden:
By Thy kindness, O Redeemer,
Overlook them.

5. The Innocent, seized,
Not refusing to be led;
Condemned by false witnesses
On account of impious men
Those whom Thou hast redeemed,
Keep safe, O Christ.

The last verse contrasts sharply with the episode of the woman caught in adultery.  The angry mob seized the woman and condemned her to a shameful death.  While they quoted the Law of Moses against the impious woman, there was no mercy in their hearts, only a sick thirst for blood.  Just as the woman was thrust before Jesus, the Lord, Himself, would soon be bound and accused by false witnessed, condemned to a painful death.  He, himself, would take the place of the adulterous woman, offering Himself as a Victim for her sins, for the sins of the lynch mob and for the sins of everyone who has cried throughout the ages, "Crucify Him."  

Yes, there is a wideness in God's mercy; however, if we do not realize that we stand in stark need of it, then we become like that lynch mob and like the two elders who falsely accused Susanna. The Attende Domine helps us to remember that we are sinners who must humbly implore the mercy of so loving a God.    Only when we begin to realize this, and engage in a Lenten regimen that takes the focus off of ourselves and re-orients us to God and our neighbor, can we begin our conversion.

1 comment:


    Faith only advocates are very inconsistent when is comes to explaining the meaning of for the remission of sins that is found in the Scriptures.

    Acts 2:38 The Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

    Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (NKJV)

    Matthew 26:28 "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which shed for many for the remission of sins. (NKJV)

    Faith only advocates proclaim that for in Acts 2:38 actually means because of. In other words the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost repented and were baptized in water because their sin had already been forgiven. Were they save by "faith only?"

    Did John the Baptist baptized because those he baptized had already been forgiven? Did for mean because of? Were they saved the very minute they repented. Were they saved by "repentance only?"

    Did Jesus shed His blood because the sins of men had already been forgiven? Did for mean because of? Are all men saved by the "the crucifixion of Jesus only?"

    The same word, for, was used in Acts 2:38, Mark 1:4, and Matthew 26:28. The Greek word eis has not been translated as because of in Acts 2:38, Mark 1:4, or Matthew 26:28. There is not one single translation that translates eis as because of. Are all translations in error? Is God not powerful enough to have His word translated correctly?

    Forgiveness of sins followed the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

    Forgiveness of sins followed those who were baptized by John the Baptist.

    Forgiveness of sins, under the New Covenant, follows being baptized in water.


    Men are saved because of God's grace. Ephesians 2:8.
    Men are saved because of the shed blood of Jesus. Matt. 26:28.
    Men are saved because of faith. John 3:16.
    Men are saved because of their repentance. Acts 3:19.
    Men are saved because of their confession. Romans 10:9.
    Men are saved because of their immersion in water. Acts 2:38.