Homily of Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus; Sunday, April 7, 2019 in St. Joseph’s Jesuit Church, Ashrafieh; on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Frans van der Lugt in Homs (Syria)

Dear brothers and sisters,

In this reading of the gospel, we have just witnessed a scene which freed a sinful woman caught in adultery, while the Law of Moses, which was the law in force, condemned her to death by stoning.

This pardon of the woman was not the result of a subtle interpretation of the Law of Moses, nor the result of a brilliant defense to prove her innocent, nor the result of external pressures or interventions.

The man who freed this woman was Jesus. He bent down so as not to look at her with an accusatory look and wrote with his finger in the sand without saying a word. And as the accusers insisted, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”. Then again he bent down and wrote in the sand. When they heard this, they went away one by one, beginning with the elder.

How did Jesus free the woman?

His authority was conferred on him by his humility, by his demeanour before those who, while being guilty themselves, wanted to condemn this woman. Strictly speaking, the only innocent person, the only one able to throw the first stone at this woman and condemn her, was Jesus himself. However, he said to her, “Woman, I do not condemn you; go and from now on do not sin any more”.

As a result, this woman not only escaped death, but also received new life. From now on, she became a new creation through her faith in Jesus. She was able to cry out like Saint Paul in the reading we have just heard, “All the advantages I once had, I consider them a loss because of this good that surpasses everything: the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. (...) I am no more trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law of Moses, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ”.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, April 7, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Frans van der Lugt in Homs. As a disciple and companion of Jesus, he devoted his entire life to relieving and setting free countless men and women whom the Lord had put on his way during nearly 50 years of ministry in Syria. Using his talents as a psychoanalyst and his exceptional gifts of listening, sympathy and compassion, he has produced a work that we can, without exaggeration, describe as prodigious. Above all, what he was able to do, he did because he identified himself, or “configured” himself to Christ, his master and Lord. All those who approached and knew him during his life can certify that Fr. Frans was intimately united to Christ in everything that he was and did. So much so, that he too, like Saint Paul in the reading we heard, could cry out, “For Christ’s sake, I have lost everything... since Christ Jesus took hold of me (...) All I want to know is Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share in the sufferings of his Passion, becoming like him in his death, with the hope of reaching the resurrection from the dead”.

Dear brothers and sisters,

On this day, exactly five years ago, the day after Palm Sunday and on the first day of Holy Week, almost at this very time, Fr. Frans was facing his young assassin who had come to find him in the Jesuit residence. As Fr. Nawras, who presided over the celebration of his funeral, pointed out, Fr. Frans probably looked at the young man with the same loving and deep look that was part of his nature, and called him by his name: “my brother”. Then, he probably thought inwardly of these words of Christ, “I do not condemn you; go, and from now on do not sin any more”.