Sunday, August 26, 2018

Grab your torches and pitchforks!

The Adulterous Woman

"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 
They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, 
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 
Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” – John 8, 1-11

We know the story well. We have heard it read at Mass and depicted in a dozen different movies. We cheer for Jesus and feel compassion for the woman. We can see ourselves there with Jesus, helping the woman up, dusting her off. We despise the Pharisees. Of course, they were responding in the only way they knew how, the way the Law taught them to respond, or at least as they understood it.
Fast forward two thousand years and we find ourselves gathering with torches and pitchforks in hand. We demand the stoning of the clergy who committed grievous sexual crimes against the innocent and we demand the stoning of those who knew and worked to cover it up. We have become the Pharisees.
Jesus still stands between us and the accused. He is saying to us, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at them.” I look at those around me, waiting for one to cast a stone. I am frozen for I know my sins. I am not innocent here. And then I hear a voice in my head. It begins as the voice of my confessor and then changes to the voice of Christ. 
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
I drop my rock and walk away. Who am I to call for the stoning of these broken men? Who are you? That does not dismiss what they have done. The damage done is extensive and the cost to rectify it will be immense. But I am proud to be Catholic today. I am blessed beyond words to have a God who both comforts the sorrowful and forgives the sinful.

This reading does not depict the woman begging at the feet of Jesus. That is a fabrication of the cinema. This reading does not tell us what is in the woman’s heart, but Jesus knew what that was. This reading simply says that he forgave the woman and told her to sin no more. If Jesus can forgive the woman he can forgive any one of us, including our broken and sinful clergy. Who are we to condemn? Who are we to call for their stoning?

So what is the appropriate thing for us to do during this time? We need to drop our torches and pitchforks, get on our knees and pray for these men and their victims. We need to pray for all clergy, that God will send his Holy Spirit to inspire and guide us to always be holy men who lead his children closer to him. Let us pray for deliverance from this demonic age.
Jesus goes on to tell us that if our hand causes us to sin we should cut it off. If our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out. He wasn’t being literal when he said this. He was making a point. He does not want us to go through life without hands or eyes or tongues. We sin because of the hardness of our hearts. We don’t need to cut off appendages. We need heart transplants. We need metanoia, a constant changing of our minds to that of God.

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a natural heart. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” – Ezekiel 36, 26-29