Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 14 of Season 5 for the Fifth Sunday of Lent: April 3, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 8, verses 1-11.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
They said this to test him so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Love's Divine DNA," by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
One of the basic fundamentals of our faith can be found in three very simple, but profound words: God. Is. Love. God. Is. Love.
As you ponder those words, they allow us to craft images of God, and to find our way into a deeper appreciation and knowledge of who God might be, both in all of his majesty and awe, but also in God's simplicity.
The second, very basic fundamental of faith is that we are made in the image and the likeness of that god. So God, who is love, makes us in his image and in His likeness. So, therefore, at the core of who we are is God's love. Because when God creates something, he doesn't do it from a distance. So when he makes us, he doesn't just fashion us from a distance and then put us off to fend for ourselves, he remains with his creation. A part of his DNA, so to speak, is left behind and it's existing in each one of us and all of his children because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and we carry that divine DNA.
So if God is love and we are made in the image and likeness of God, and the truth of who we are is found in God, then our true mission and vocation in life is to then figure out how to love, figure out how to love. It's not about our career, our job. It's not about how successful we can become. It's not about who people think I am, how people feel about me. It's not about any of that. But life really is about learning to love.
And as we embark upon this creative, wonderful, exciting journey of learning how to love, we begin to realize that we stumble a lot along that way. And we fumble over ourselves. And our attempts at loving are not always stellar. That as we journey through life, we make some love mistakes, and we often do that regularly.
God being love is always God. So God always loves perfectly. God doesn't find himself looking back on something he created yesterday and saying, oh, I could have loved that a little bit more. And I'm going to try that again tomorrow.
God doesn't work like that. God always loves. God is always merciful. God is always forgiving. God is always, always, always. And so to use a double negative, God cannot not be God. Whereas for us, it's a little bit different because we are weaker. Because we have temptation towards sin. Because we often don't get the big picture of ourselves and we're distracted and we're easily led in places where we ought not go.
Our loving is not always perfect. Our expression of ourselves is not always on point. And finding ourselves, buying into illusions about ourselves, buying into lies about ourselves, getting distracted and fragmented, our loving becomes a little bit more difficult. And it's often filled with our own needs, our fears, our anxieties.
You know, we can find ourselves loving someone, but then actually what we're doing is trying to control them. Where our attempts at loving can sometimes look more like manipulation. Sometimes people punish and they call that love. Sometimes our love is too filled with our own needs and our desires and becomes more about fulfilling something in me, rather than me giving something back to you. Or maybe our loving has brought us to a place where we're just so incredibly hurt that we're not willing to risk again. So loving becomes insulating, and, therefore, I stay to myself by myself because I'm afraid of being rejected again.
Sometimes when people love, they equate it with passion. And so they figure love needs to feel good so that if I have passionately express myself then that is loving. And so they get distracted by passion. So all of these different things can trip us up. And as we move through our experiences of loving, we begin to see how easy it is to fail in loving. And when we fail in loving, we know that we've failed.
You know, when I've wrongly hurt someone, or I haven't been able to live up to my expectations of myself, or to do as I would expect myself to do, and that affects the life of someone else, I know that. You know, when I fall victim to behaviors that are directly sinful, I know that. I know that. I don't need someone throwing stones at me, telling me how bad I am and how wrong I am, because, for most of us, we do enough of that to ourselves.
You know, the person who is consistently tripping over themselves, the person who is consistently falling victim to weakness, the person who is struggling with sin knows that about themselves, usually, and so we don't need to remind them and we don't need to make their burden heavier.
As I was reading again the story of the woman caught in adultery, a word got my attention and the word was caught, caught. The woman was caught in adultery. What I found intriguing is the woman didn't commit adultery and then go to Jesus to be forgiven by God. The woman didn't commit adultery and realized that she did something wrong and then was trying to find the person to help her fix it. She was caught in adultery and put on display. And in that public display where they're trying to use this to trip Jesus up and they're ready to stone her, Jesus walks into that, and you know how the story goes.
And she meets someone, some thing, some power, some presence that she never met before. And she finds, perhaps, that she's beginning to change how she thinks. This man cares about her. He loves her. He's showing her mercy and advocates for her, unlike anyone else ever did perhaps in her life. And she receives a sense of self-respect that she didn't have before.
Sometimes in our lives, we find ourselves in sin, we find ourselves going down the wrong path. We can easily justify those actions, you know, especially when they're sins of the passion, sins of the flesh. Well, so many people are doing it. It can't be that wrong. You know, it's not really hurting me at this point. So how can that be sinful? It feels good.
Many other behaviors that we find ourselves engaged in that are blatantly sinful we kind of dismiss, and we don't give them much regard. Sometimes we feel entitled to those behaviors for one reason or another. But this woman found something. She found something. And you and I, when we find ourselves going down the right path, when we find ourselves not loving as well as we could love when we find ourselves engaged in behaviors that are directly sinful and we reach out to God, God is always merciful. God is always forgiving. God is never going to look unkindly upon us, but God also can't accept the sin, either. And He offers that mercy in hopes that the mercy is going to change us. Because the world, no matter how hard we try - and we try - we get the world to tell us who we are. We want the world to give us our value.
But the world can't really do that. And we really can't give that to ourselves because we don't often think well enough of ourselves to give ourselves any true value. The only person who can do that for us is God. Because God looks upon each one of us and he zeroes right in on that gift that he gave us, which is divine self, and he looks at that essence of the sacred in each one of us and said, you are valued, you are loved as the person I made you to be. You are valued and you are loved. You see, once we begin to see the connection between ourselves and the higher power of God, now we have a motivation to go out and love better, to try to pick ourselves up, to love more perfectly.
You know, how many times have we heard that very beautiful rendition about love from St. Paul to the Corinthians, where he talks about love being patient, and love being kind, and love not being jealous and loving enduring all things. And we were attracted to that perfect picture of love that, when we look at ourselves, we know we don't do that all the time. We're not always kind, and we're not always patient, and we get jealous, and we certainly don't allow love to pull us through crises. We get anxious and fearful. So we know how much we don't do that. That's because God does those things. That's how God's love is shown. And so in order for us to learn how to love properly, to love wholly, is to ask God for the help to do that. If I divorced myself from the divine power within me, and pretend that I can do all of this on my own, I'm not going to do it successfully. I'm going to continue to trip up and fail. But by God's power, I can. So I truly want to believe that this woman, who was caught in adultery, who was face-to-face with her sin, who realized that her life was broken, found his gift of self-respect and new life and love from this person who came along the way, who now we know is God, who picked her up and gave her the strength and the courage for her to leave that moment, leave her sin, and go out and love more perfectly. I want to hope that that meeting with Jesus changed her life forever, and reorientated her.
Because that's what happens when we truly understand who we are when we really develop that relationship with God, we're going to run away from anything that is self-destructive. We're going to run away, run away from anything that is sinful. And we're going to go to the whole, to the holy, and pick up those fragments of our lives, ask God to help us put them back together again, and become more centered and focused. And that's what it means when we hear the words from God, "Go and sin no more.' Pick yourself up. Reorient yourself and live more perfectly. Live more wholly. And not only are we going to hear those words go and sin no more, but we're blamed to say back to God, I don't want to sin anymore.
We're going to know the power and the self-destruction that sin can have over us. How that keeps us captive and unfree, and we're not going to want it anymore. But we have to know God's mercy and have that divine meeting before our minds can be enlightened. And our hearts opened.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.