By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THAT gospel story about the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8,1-11) can teach us many lessons that we can learn. Among them, that we are all sinners, no matter how much we try to be good; that God’s mercy is always available, and thus we should never lose hope because of this lifelong predicament of ours; that we need to have constant conversion, exerting the necessary effort and developing virtues.
There can still be many other lessons we can learn. Like, instead of being quick to judge and condemn others, let us be quick to help and to bear the burden of the others. That’s because in the end we are all brothers and sisters who are all bound to love each other.
Let’s always remember that in the eyes of God, we are a precious treasure in vessels of clay. And that’s simply because among his creatures, we, together with the angels, have been given the highest dignity of being his image and likeness. Yet he knows how fragile we are since we can easily abuse the many tremendous gifts he has given us. One moment we are ok, but in the next, we can crack. But God is always around to help us.
We have to realize that we are called to holiness in the way God is holy. The pursuit for holiness will always be marked by constant struggle. In fact, it’s going to be a lifelong warfare for us. A saint, as one holy man said, is a sinner who keeps on struggling.
We should never forget God’s mercy for us. It’s the ultimate expression of his love for us. We may not even ask for it yet, but he will offer it to us, as he expressed it before he died on the cross. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing,” he said. (Lk 23,34) St. Paul reiterates the same point when he said, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5,8)
But we need to learn how to blend God’s mercy and the all-out effort we need to exert to achieve our ultimate goal and win our definitive status as God’s image and likeness, children of his and sharers of his divine nature. Let’s remember that while Christ was merciful to the woman caught in adultery, he told her to sin no more
What we have to avoid is to rely simply on God’s mercy without exerting any effort, or the other way around—to think that we can achieve our goal with our effort alone without God’s mercy.
The former position can be described as falling under the heretical belief called ‘gnosticism,’ while the latter can be the expression of another heresy called ‘Pelagianism.’
Pope Francis, in his document “Gaudete et exsultate,” exposed the dangers of these two heresies that still hold sway over many good people who want to be holy as they should.
It’s true that God is all merciful. He has the last word on how we are to be judged. It’s he who will complete and perfect everything in us, because in the first place he began a good work with us. (cfr. Phil 1,6)
But we have to do our part. We need to pray hard and to be generous with our sacrifices. We need to be vigilant, always staying away from any occasion of sin, and preferring to enter by the narrow gate, etc.