We are so used to thinking about the long view, Jesus died to free us from sin, that we sometimes forget the immediate cause of his crucifixion. Today's first reading seems odd but it you think about it, it fits perfectly with the crucifixion.
Today we open with a long first reading, the entire story of Sussana, and the two old men who threatened to denounce her for adultery with a young man, if she wouldn't sleep with them. Had it not been for Daniel she would have been stoned to death. For those who don't remember the story, he separates the two witnesses and they each testify to finding her with the young man under a different tree.
The deeper question was why were the people so ready to stone her? What is it within us that when we see a good person, we are always ready to believe the worst? We are almost relieved when something bad comes out. "See I told you,it was all for show."
The answer can be found at the end of the gospel. Today's gospel is the woman who actually was caught in adultery. At the end Jesus tells her to "go and sin in more." Is that possible? Is it possible that she went off and spent her life without sin? And if it isn't possible then why did Jesus tell her to do it?
If Jesus told her to do it, it must be possible. We tell ourselves that we are all sinners, because that let's us off the hook. Sin by definition is a free choice. If you are forced to do something it may be bad but it isn't a sin. Sin is when we knowingly and willingly do something contrary to God's law.
Having virtuous people around reminds us that it is possible to be good. They remind us that if we have sinned, it is our own fault and no one else's (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). Therefore, we are relieved when a good person falls, or is even accused of falling. We can once more dismiss our responsibility for our sin with the childish excuse, all people sin.
Is it difficult to live in the Spirit all the time? Yes. Is it impossible? No. We have the Spirit dwelling in us 24/7. All we have to do is pause, listen, and think; before we act.
There are several words in Greek which we translated into English as "sin."The word used in John's gospel today is amartia, literally to miss the mark. Were their athletes in the biathlon in the Winter Olympics this year who could hit all five targets, and ski? Yes. The ones who could hit every time had concentration, discipline, and most of all years of practice. If we put that much intentionality into living, I think we too would hit the mark.