Gospel – John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Reflection by Dylan Perry, FSC
This week we are presented with a touching and challenging account of forgiveness that call us to investigate in what ways we forget mercy for other and ourselves. How often we go with the group or lean on rules and social mores rather than encountering the whole person in their complexity, gifts and brokenness. This story is the Great Commandment in practice.
37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:37-40 (Translation from The Message)
We are called to see others AND ourselves as God sees us—as loved and lovable. Jesus not only helps the crowd to learn to forgive, he also helps the woman to see herself as God sees her and to forgive herself. This is the “salve” or “ointment” in salvation. We are meant to be a soothing and healing presence to each other. This is our Lasallian Charism, to meet the needs of the marginalized by being with each other.
With that in mind, John includes some interesting details that I would like to explore. Why does he point out to us that the move toward leaving and therefore forgiveness begins “with the oldest”? The oldest among them were the first to be convinced and to turn from retribution and the rest followed. Perhaps, having experienced more in their lives has softened their hearts to the plight of others. Perhaps their own misdeeds, have made them more empathetic. What is important I think is that they have a clear role to play to set an example. Elders among us can give tacit permission to reconsider old ways simply by the way that they react to the conversation.
This diversity of experience and perspective is a great gift in Lasallian communities. Our homes, our ministries, and our lives are filled with the opportunity for youthful questions, energy, and passion to encounter the wisdom and compassion of age. Is this not the project of a human and Christian education at its core?
As we prepare for the coming General Chapter, I encourage all Lasallians regardless of age or experience to consider how these two impulses of youthful passion and elderly compassion are at work in your hearts, in your ministry, and in your lives to put us on a path towards encounters of forgiveness and healing for ourselves and others. Then we will truly be living Jesus in our hearts.
Good words, Dylan! Brother Rob