Sunday, April 7, 2019

+ 5thLent C +

They had been trailing her. Now, cameras rolling, they drag her in front of Jesus and stick a microphone in his face.

The Romans reserved capital punishment to themselves. If Jesus approves stoning her as Moses taught, they will turn him in. If he offers mercy, they will say he is no teacher of the Law.

Saying nothing, Jesus bends down to write in the dirt. When he does speak, one by one, they turn and walk away. He has reminded them of what the Law of Moses truly teaches.

The elders, the woman, each of us is guilty.  We all obscure and smear the image of God that is the deepest truth about each of us.

God is about to reveal, through the willing and costly obedience of Christ that we are pardonedbecause we are petty and imperfect.

We deny our guilt out of shame, at times out of arrogance. We claim that what we are doing isn’t wrong or doesn’t harm anyone.

We deny our responsibility for what we have failed to do; responsibility not for the kind of world into which we were born, but for the kind of world we are passing on.

Jesus has not come to condemn but to liberate. Jesus is always writing the truth in the dirt and then wiping it out.

He is always trying to love us into consciousness to face the truth about our attitudes and actions, and then make us co-workers who hand on the compassion of God consciously and willingly.

God always draws us beyond obeying laws to obeying a conscience that has known love. Sins are actions that are unworthy of us.

Writing about sexual activity, psychiatrist Avodah Offit reminds us:

We express our most fundamental natures through our sexual choices.  A person’s sexual pattern is not, as a rule, anything else but what he or she is.  The way we have sex, and with whom, is just as much a part of ourselves as how we spend money, take vacations, do our work…We may fear pleasure or seek it without restraint.  We may give our souls to establishing a sexual ethic or have not the slightest insight into how morality and sex could possibly be related. [1]

Some of those elders walked away more determined to silence Jesus. Did some of them accept the Mercy of God so wordlessly offered?

And the woman?  Did she just slip away, relieved to be off the hook?  Did she too prefer darkness? Did the chaste and honest love of Jesus convince her of an acceptance more profound than any sin?

We do know that Jesus called what she had done a sin and then simply wiped away the offense.

She was a woman worthy of friendship, with whom he could be direct because he cared about her and wanted her to labor with him.

God’s judgment is grace and pardon—with the hope of change: “From now on avoid this sin.”

Preaching on this gospel, St. Augustine put it in pithy Latin: Relicti sunt duo, misera et misericordia (Only the two of them remained, one full of misery, one full of mercy).

You and I.  The elders and the adulterous woman.

All of us fallenAll of us loved. All of us pardoned.

[1]  TheSexual Self.  NY: J.B. Lippincott, 1977. p. 13.

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