Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

Sunday, March 13, 2016


This Sunday's Readings


Year A RCIA Scrutinies

First Reading
Isaiah 43:16-21
The Lord is doing something new for his people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 126:1-6
A song in praise of the Lord's marvelous deeds

Second Reading
Philippians 3:8-14
Paul says that he counts all things as lot and focuses on one goal, Christ.

Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent continues to offer lessons about God's mercy and forgiveness. Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke. Today we hear not a parable, but the report from John's Gospel of an encounter among Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery.

In John's Gospel, the conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees occurs much earlier than in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus' cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem is reported at the beginning of John's Gospel. Even after this event, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple. After returning to Galilee for a time, Jesus again enters Jerusalem and cures a man on the Sabbath. From this point forward in John's Gospel, the Pharisees are described as making plans for Jesus' arrest and seeking his death.

In the chapter preceding today's Gospel, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area. Feeling threatened by his teaching and his actions, the chief priests and the Pharisees are already sending guards to arrest Jesus. The guards return, however, without arresting Jesus because they have been impressed by his words. Even more than this, some among the crowds are considering the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah. The chief priests and the Pharisees change their plan. Before making an arrest, they seek to gather more evidence against Jesus by posing a question intended to trap Jesus.

Today's Gospel begins by reporting that Jesus is again teaching the crowds in the vicinity of the Temple. The scribes and the Pharisees approach Jesus, bringing a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. They put to Jesus the question of what ought to be done in this case.

The Pharisees state clearly that according to the Law of Moses, those caught in the act of adultery were to be stoned to death. Under Roman occupation, however, the Jewish people did not have the authority to execute people; this is cited in John's passion narrative. To answer the Pharisees' question, Jesus must propose an action that will be either contrary to the Law of Moses or contrary to Roman law. The purpose of the question appears to be similar to the question about paying taxes found in Mark 12:13-17. Either answer, yes or no, will support the Pharisees' case against Jesus.

Jesus avoids the trap, however, by offering an answer that was not anticipated by those who posed the question. Jesus, after writing on the ground with his finger, addresses those who stand before him and suggests that the one without sin cast the first stone. Jesus then returns to his writing. This Scripture reading, by the way, is the only evidence we have of Jesus writing. Yet there are no specific details about what he wrote.

We can easily imagine the scene as the Pharisees and the elders disperse, one by one. Jesus has eluded the trap they had prepared. We might also give credit to the elders and the Pharisees who do not, in the end, claim to be sinless and worthy of passing judgment. These Pharisees are not as self-righteous as the portrait found in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (See Luke 18:9-14).

Left alone with the woman, Jesus asks where the accusers have gone. With no one remaining to condemn the woman, Jesus (the one who truly is without sin) sends the woman on her way, refusing to pass judgment on her and exhorting her to avoid future sin.

Jesus' response to those who accuse the woman is more than a caution to us about making judgment of others. It is a profound lesson in divine mercy and forgiveness. As sinners, we are all unworthy to judge the sins of others and we would stand convicted by God for our transgressions. Yet Jesus, the one without sin and thus our judge, offers us who are sinners his mercy and forgiveness. Redeemed by Jesus' compassion, we are sent to sin no more and to live in God's love and peace.


Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Young children often see the faults and shortcomings of others, but they are less likely to be aware of their own faults. We can lead them to a healthy awareness of their own faults and to look upon the faults of others with compassion. In their experiences of forgiveness and being forgiven, young children are growing in their awareness of God's mercy and forgiveness toward them.

Materials Needed

  • One or more magnifying glasses
  • Objects to study with a magnifying glass
  • A hand mirror

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Allow the children to look at a number of items with the magnifying glass. Talk about all the things they can see through it that they hardly notice otherwise.

  2. Say: Sometimes we look at each other as if through a magnifying glass, noticing only people's faults. Instead of aiming our magnifying glass at others, we would be better off using this [hold up the mirror] to see that we, too, have faults.

  3. Introduce today's Gospel: In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus forgives a woman who has sinned and tells those who want to punish her that they should look more closely at their own faults. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel reading.

  4. Read aloud today's Gospel, John 8:2-11.

  5. Ask: What does Jesus say to the people who have accused the woman of sin? (that the person with no sin should throw the first stone) What do the accusers and the crowds do? (They all walk away.) What does Jesus say to the woman? (that he does not condemn her; that she should go and not sin anymore)

  6. Say: Just as Jesus forgave the woman for her sin, so too Jesus forgives us when we are sorry for having done wrong. This Gospel teaches us that when we remember the wrong things that we do, we are more likely to be willing to forgive others for the things they do wrong.

  7. Conclude in prayer together, asking God to forgive our sins by praying the Act of Contrition.


Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

Older children are beginning to look more critically at themselves and at others. We can lead them to understand that God knows us well but does not look upon us with judgment. Instead, God looks at us with mercy and love.

Materials Needed

  • One or more magnifying glasses
  • Objects to study with the magnifying glass
  • A hand mirror

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Show a magnifying glass and ask the children to describe its uses. Allow the children to look at a number of items with the magnifying glass.

  2. Summarize the experience of using a magnifying glass. Ask: What happens when we use a magnifying glass? (Small things appear larger than they are.)

  3. Introduce today's Gospel: In the Gospel reading this week, a woman who has committed a terrible sin is brought to Jesus. Those who bring her to Jesus expect him to think that this sin is so big that it cannot be forgiven. They believe that this woman should be punished with death. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel reading.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today's Gospel, John 8:2-11.

  5. Ask: What does Jesus say to the people who have accused the woman caught in adultery? (that the person with no sin should throw the first stone) What do the accusers and the crowds do? (They all walk away.) What does Jesus say to the woman? (that he does not condemn her; that she should go and not sin anymore)

  6. Say: Sometimes when we look at other people, and sometimes even when we look at ourselves, we notice every fault, seeing others and ourselves as if through a magnifying glass. What would be different if we looked at ourselves and others using this? Hold up the mirror.

  7. Say: We know that God really knows us. He knows everything about us. Yet Jesus shows us that God doesn't look at us as with a magnifying glass; he doesn't highlight our faults and our sins. God sees each of us completely and really, as we might see ourselves in a mirror. God forgives our sins so that we can become the people he wants us to be.

  8. Conclude in prayer by thanking God for the gift of his mercy and forgiveness. Pray together the Act of Contrition or the Act of Hope.


Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

When young people scrutinize themselves and others, they often see their own faults and the faults of others with great clarity. They sometimes fail to use this information, however, to offer a fair and complete evaluation of the whole person. We can help them to understand that God never focuses on our sins but looks upon our entire person with love and mercy.

Materials Needed

  • A magnifying glass
  • A hand mirror

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Hold up a magnifying glass and a hand mirror. Ask the young people to describe the difference in the way we use these two items. Ask: What happens when we look at objects through a magnifying glass? (Tiny objects or details become visible; small objects appear larger than they really are.) What happens when we look at objects in a mirror? (We see their reflection; we see an image of the object.) Which would you more likely use to get a clear image of yourself? (the mirror)

  2. Introduce today's Gospel: In the Gospel reading this week, a woman is brought to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses prescribed stoning as the punishment for those found guilty of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus to see what he would say. Actually, they wanted to find evidence to use against Jesus and condemn him. In his response to them, Jesus teaches us something important about how God looks upon sinners and our sins. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel reading.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today's Gospel, John 8:2-11.

  4. Ask: What does Jesus say to the people who have accused the woman caught in adultery? (that the person with no sin should throw the first stone) What do the accusers and the crowds do? (They all walk away.) What does Jesus say to the woman? (that he does not condemn her; that she should go and not sin anymore)

  5. Say: One of the things we learn from this Gospel is the importance of not judging the faults of others. But there's an even more basic lesson here about how God sees us. Why is it important that Jesus does not condemn the woman? (because Jesus is the one without sin) Jesus is without sin and could have condemned the woman, but he chooses not to make her sin the focus of what he sees in her.

  6. Say: Sometimes when we look at other people, and sometimes even when we look at ourselves, we notice faults and wrongdoing and make these the focus of our attention. It is almost as if we examine faults and sins with a magnifying glass. We might even be tempted to think that God looks at us in this way too.

  7. Say: Yet Jesus shows us that God doesn't look at us as with a magnifying glass; he doesn't highlight our faults and our sins. Instead, God sees each of us completely and really as we are, as we might see ourselves in a mirror. God doesn't focus on our sins. God forgives our sins, fully and completely, so that we can become the people he wants us to be.

  8. [If your group might soon celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, add the following points: In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we try to see ourselves as we know we are, as God sees us: as sinners who need God's mercy. When confessing our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are not scrutinizing our faults as with a magnifying glass. Instead, we are striving to see ourselves as we are, as in a mirror. We seek to confess our sins honestly. We trust that God will forgive us because God sees us as we are and sees the people we can become as we grow in his love.]

  9. Conclude in prayer by thanking God for his mercy and love. Pray together the Act of Contrition or the Act of Hope.


Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.


Family Connection

There are few people that we know better than the members of our own family. We know one another's strengths and abilities, and we also know one another's limitations and weaknesses. Like the Pharisees in today's Gospel, we may be tempted to focus on the faults and sins that familiarity with one another can sometimes reveal. As family members, however, we also have the ability to see one another's faults and sins within the context of the whole person. When we can keep this perspective, we are more likely to look upon one another with compassion. Family life, then, presents us the opportunity to see one another as God sees us, not with judgment and condemnation for our weaknesses and failings, but with mercy and compassion. When we learn to withhold judgment for the faults we know are there and seek the best in one another, we help one another to experience the depths of God's compassion, mercy, and love.

As you gather as a family, observe that when we know people well we know their faults as well as their strengths. At times, we can be tempted to focus on the faults we see in others. Discuss what your family life would be like if you always focused on one another's faults. Observe that in today's Gospel, Jesus refuses to focus on the sin of the woman brought to him for judgment. Read aloud today's Gospel, John 8:2-11. Ask: What did the people who focused on the woman's sin want to do? (stone the woman) What does Jesus say to the people who accused the woman caught in adultery? (that the person with no sin should throw the first stone) Are any of us without sin? (No.) Observe that we can help each other to grow in God's love by refusing to focus on one another's faults and sins. In this way, we can help one another to see ourselves as God sees us: with understanding and compassion. Conclude in prayer together asking God to forgive our sins by praying the Act of Contrition.