5th Sunday of Lent—Year C
Finding Jesus in the Grey
When I read this gospel a second time, the words, “the Pharisees brought a woman…and made her stand in the middle…” (v. 3) jumped out at me. Jesus didn’t go looking for the woman; the Pharisees wanted to make an example of her. Then I started thinking, does Jesus ever “go looking” for sinners? He may, but I couldn’t think of any times that He actually did. Jesus is always willing to help a sinner out, but He doesn’t go looking for our sins.
Jesus wants to find us when we want to be found. It’s a choice, and the responsibility is ours. The Father is certainly looking for the prodigal son when he finally heads home, but not because he has sinned. Dad can’t wait to fold His child into His embrace. Jesus isn’t about to scrutinize us, searching for our wrongs. He knows them, He knew the Samaritan woman at the well’s whole sordid history, but what He wants is for us to want to be with Him. Who wants to be with someone who’s just looking for the next mistake? If anything, that pressure would make us even more imperfect.
When I taught elementary school, I tried very hard to develop a relationship with my kids. I tried to learn what they were good at, whether it was school or otherwise. I wanted to know the whole child. I didn’t want every interaction to be me searching for something to correct. I hoped trust would develop because they would know I didn’t see their mistakes as their identity. And I fervently hoped they wouldn’t see my mistakes as my whole being either. I violated this unwritten contract once with Garrett. It was hot. I was tired. He was frustrated, and I couldn’t think of yet another way to explain double-digit subtraction to him. Twenty-odd years later I still remember watching his world crumble. When I cast a relentlessly critical eye on Garrett’s work, the walls went up. I’m not sure I was able to get them down again that year.
Jesus isn’t like that. If we ask Him to, sure, He will help us identify our faults, but He does it in love and only to help us grow closer to Him. He already knows that our faults are there, and He’s already forgiven them. The only reason Jesus lets us know them is so we can understand the vastness of His forgiveness and, ultimately, His love. It’s only when we understand that depth, that we are able to do the same for those in our world.
Unlike the Pharisees who are anxious to catch people in the act of sinning and make them stand judgement, Jesus wants to build relationships. Catching and judging are definitely easier, more black and white. Relationships develop in a sea of grey. They take time, meander, are give and take personified, and need oceans of forgiveness. The question is, are we willing to be patient like Jesus or do we want to take the easy way out like the Pharisees??