06 "Neither do I condemn you"

posted Apr 10, 2019, 9:10 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 10, 2019, 9:10 AM ]

Homily preached by His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, at the Ordination Mass at St Pius X College

The key words in today's Gospel are these very meaningful words of Our Lord, "Neither do I condemn you." My dear Ashwin, Omar, Renold and Leon, you are being ordained during the Liturgy of the fifth Sunday of Lent, when the Church presents to us the beautiful narrative of the forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery from St John's Gospel. While the date for the ordination is chosen by the Seminary, for those with faith, nothing happens just by chance. The Lord is giving you and us a very apt message that is most relevant to the ministry of priests.

In this particular Gospel incident, we notice that the Jews and the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus in a conflict between the narrow legalism of condemnation and the unlimited mercy of God. If Jesus said she should not be stoned, He would be going against the Law of Moses which they quoted to Him. How could a devout Jew, moreover one claiming to be a prophet, do so? If, on the other hand, Jesus protected her from stoning to death, He would be seen condoning immorality. How do you reconcile the two?

The loving and compassionate face of God in Jesus could not condemn her, nor could He break Moses' Law. Instead, Jesus who had come to save, just responded, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." And He began writing on the sand. What He wrote we do not know. Scripture does not record that. But one by one, they dropped the stones they were carrying, instruments for the woman's execution, and quietly departed. When no one was left, Jesus looked around and asked the woman, "Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

For me, personally, this is one of the most beautiful incidents in the Gospel. It shows Jesus as most merciful, the door for our salvation. As you begin your priestly ministry today, I invite you to take this as one of your foundational principles. "Neither do I condemn you." You are sent, as priests, not to condemn people, not to search out their faults and condemn, but to be dispensers of God's goodness and mercy. All priests are called to personify the mercy of God who by forgiving, redeems, and by reconciling, renews.