Solemnity of St Patrick
In today’s gospel for the feast of St Patrick, we have the account of the women about to be stoned to death for committing adultery. It may strike us as a harsh reading for such a joyous day. Yet it actually is a very relevant reading for this feast of St Patrick.
The Scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus what they think should happen to her, citing the Law which demands she be stoned to death. Jesus bends down and writes on the ground, eventually gets up, and says simply “Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her”. With this, everyone leaves one by one until only she and Jesus are left. No one had chosen to condemn her, because they all realised that they were not guiltless at all. Everyone present had at some point sinned and was in need of God’s mercy.
Ireland today is as much in need of God’s mercy as it was in the time of St Patrick. When St Patrick came to these shores in the 5th century, he did not come with a pack of Scribes and Pharisees ready to condemn people, but he came with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he established the Church in Ireland. Ever since that time, Ireland has known God’s mercy. The current way confession is organised throughout the Church, whereby you confess your sins individually to a priest in private- was introduced by Irish monks- by people whose ancestors had been evangelized by St Patrick.
The message proclaimed by St Patrick is the same today as it was then; that Christ died for our sins and rose on the third day. That God’s love and mercy comes to us though his Son. Now, as then, the Church has sought to bring God’s love to Ireland, and to the world. Thousands of Irish missionaries have since the time of St Patrick, followed him in bringing that same gospel to the ends of the world. They gave up everything for the sake of the Gospel, and went to places they had never heard of. They went knowing that to bring just one soul back to God, the sacrifice of one’s entire life was worth it.
Today however, the mission of bringing the gospel does not require us to travel to the ends of the earth, but to travel to the nearest person we know who does not have faith in Jesus Christ. In the secular Ireland of today, that usually means we do not have to travel far at all. So on this feast of St Patrick, we should above all, be thinking about how we can go about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbour.
St Patrick’s day is a joyous day for us Christians – a day to celebrate and allow ourselves to have a good time. But let us be sure to talk to God about his great love and mercy this day, and about our need to spread the gospel. Finally, we ,must love the culture while at the same time urging it to ‘sin no more’. If we can all do a bit of this, we truly would be honoring St Patrick.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”