Fifth Sunday in Lent


By Tina Sibbald

Someone famous does something wrong, and suddenly everyone is throwing around the line “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I’m bemused when people cherry pick Bible verses to be used for their own purposes, completely distorting the intended meaning for followers of Christ. Often used to justify bad behavior – or let’s call it what it is – sin, by everyone from the rich and powerful, to the most average among us, it demonstrates a flagrant misunderstanding of the concept of mercy. From the adulterous woman, to the leper, to the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed; there are many examples of Christ showing mercy. Mercy, by definition is compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is in one’s power to punish or harm. I would also add – someone whom it is in one’s power to ignore: the voiceless, the marginalized, the needy, and the poor.

Pope Francis has told us that if we strive to know God, then we must be compelled to be merciful as this is a quality of God that He requires of His people. How do we do that? There are all kinds of practical ways, too many to list. For starters, the social justice ministries right here at St. Basil’s, always need more volunteers. Or, thinking about our own day-to-day relationships, who needs us to extend forgiveness or compassion? However, many of these things can be taken on in a ‘going through the motions’ way, out of some sense of duty.

At the heart of the matter, if we are to encounter mercy, we need to have a radical encounter with God. That can only happen through prayer. We’re all involved weekly or daily with liturgical prayer, but what this is really about is our personal prayer time with God. It is impossible to be like someone we don’t spend time getting to know in a deep and meaningful way. In chapter six of “Sacred Fire”, Ronald Rolheiser talks about how “prayer is lifting mind and heart to God”. While there’s too much excellent information to summarize here, one takeaway for me is about being like Jesus’ disciples and saying, “Lord, teach ME how to pray”.

As someone observing Lent for the first time, it occurs to me while giving something up is a good and thoughtful practice, actively getting to know God is what He really wants from me, and not just a little. Beyond dipping my toe into the shallow end of the pool to test the waters, I need to dive into the deep end and get my hair wet! That’s where God is waiting for me. When we encounter God in a profound way, showing mercy will not merely become easier to do, but it will become natural. Lord, teach us to pray!

Sunday’s Readings:

Isaiah 43.16-21

Philippians 3.8-14

John 8.1-11