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The Mercy of Jesus

March 19, 2013

5th Sunday of Lent Reflection
By Hugh McElwain, Professor of Theology
John 8:1-11 – The Woman About to Be Stoned

Early in my years as a seminarian, our daily meditation or reflection sessions generally opened with a reading offered by the Rector. Ordinarily this reading was either from Scripture or from some spiritual work, to which we were expected to listen attentively. Following the reading we were first instructed to focus on the scene/story presented in the reading, and to try intently to imagine in our minds the precise details described there. The second phase of our meditation invited us to think deeply about possible lessons to be gleaned from the narrative. As a third concluding experience we were to form a concrete resolution which would aid us to apply this challenging lesson to our daily lives.

Now, one of the readings I still remember so vividly from those days was the story presented in today’s Gospel reading – the woman about to be stoned.  As you read through this gospel, what feelings and emotions or images are strong for you?

Attempting to keep the scene present in my consciousness, I found myself grasped by the image of Jesus sitting in the temple teaching the people gathered around him. Noisily into this scene came the angry, self-righteous group of Scribes and Pharisees. In their midst was the defenseless woman, accused of adultery, whom they dragged before Jesus, demanding that he acknowledge the punishment for her “crime,” namely that she be stoned. Jesus, hearing all this, bent over from his chair and started writing in the sand, paying little or no attention meanwhile to the woman or her accusers. Eventually, as they insisted on hearing his judgment, Jesus raised up and addressed the woman’s accusers with these words, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” Then again he bent over. At the same time the accusers one by one, caught in their own web of guilt, slunk out of the room. Jesus is left alone with the woman standing before him. He asks gently of the woman: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go in peace and sin no more.”

What might Jesus be trying to tell you through this reading?

For me, the lesson becomes obviously compelling: Who am I with all my failings to presume to accuse others? Indeed, judge not, for you shall be judged.

 

Forgiveness

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