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March 28th 2004, Fifth Sunday in John 8/1-11
Catholic Homilies

March 28th 2004

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Fifth Sunday in John 8/1-11


  This is perhaps the most scandalous story in the Gospels. Many scholars think that it is not part of St. John’s Gospel because it does not quite fit here and does not appear in some of the ancient codexes. It may have been a free floating parable of Jesus which the editor placed in St. John’s gospel, changing it from a parable Jesus told to a story in which Jesus participated because it seemed less scandalous if Jesus was the principle actor. The scandal of course is that Jesus forgives the unpardonable crime of adultery and indeed gives “absolution” before the sinner confesses.

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  Once upon a time a man named Dean Acheson who had served in the Roosevelt administration was called back to serve in the Truman administration. A friend of his was Alger Hiss who turned out to have been a highly placed Communist spy in late nineteen thirties and the early nineteen forties. After Hiss’s conviction on perjury charges, reporters asked Acheson who worked in the State Department (and probably designed the famous Marshal plan which saved Europe from hunger and Communism)what he thought of his friend Hiss now. The son of an Anglican Bishop and a frosty, prickly man, said the famous words, “I will not turn my back on Alger Hiss!” Immediately the Republicans in Congress branded him as soft on Communism and perhaps a Communist spy. This image stuck in the minds of many Americans, although Acheson was the most determined of Cold Warriors, perhaps indeed the first Cold Warrior. He committed the unpardonable sin of forgiving a traitor who had not even asked forgiveness. That’s what Jesus did.

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He committed the unpardonable sin of forgiving a traitor who had not even asked forgiveness. That’s what Jesus did
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