Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Yesterday on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (C Cycle), we heard the story of the woman caught in adultery from the Gospel of St. John. (When we read from Cycles A and B in the Lectionary for Sunday Mass, the Gospel for today would be that same story.) Today's first reading is a similar story taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel. In both instances, the story was not so much about the woman as it was about the motives of the men who accused the women. Even though the woman in the Book of the Prophet Daniel was innocent while the woman in the Gospel was apparently guilty, the real lesson that we learn from these stories has to do with our motives for condemning others.
The passage we hear from St. John's Gospel today is one of the famous "I AM" statements that John liberally sprinkles throughout the text. "I AM the Light of the World." That light is the very thing that illumines those things that are often kept in the darkness, things like our motives in judging others, in condemning others. As the Gospel story from St. John told us yesterday, the scribes and elders were trying to test Jesus, to trap him in his words.
The portrayal of God as a Light is a familiar theme in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Book of Exodus, we read that God appeared with the Hebrew children in the desert sojourn as a pillar of fire at night. The psalmist proclaims "God is my light and my salvation." (Psalm 27) Jesus makes this bold proclamation while he is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, a feast that involved lighting bonfires in the Temple courtyards commemorating the sojourn in the desert. It is followed by the story of the man born blind. So it is clear that John is using this statement and the stories that surround it to help us understand the nature of the Light of Christ. When we gather two weeks hence to celebrate the Easter vigil, we will begin by proclaiming that Christ is our Light.
Formerly, we called the two weeks before Easter "Passiontide." The statues and crucifixes of our churches were draped in purple to focus our attention on the stark reality of the rituals to which we were drawing near; namely, the fact that though evil had struggled mightily to quench the light, the Light that is Jesus is not extinguished. For those of us who claim Christ as our Light, this sacred time is devoted to examining our lives and our motives. May the Light that is Christ be kept burning brightly as we strive to "turn from sin" and "believe in the Gospel."