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 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 a woman. 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 women 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.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I adore and thank you for this opportunity to be with you. I am ready to hear and embrace your word. I believe in you and in your goodness. I hope in your mercy. I love you and long to love you with a purer heart.
Petition: Christ Jesus, help me to experience mercy and dispense it to others.
Stoning the Sinner: The law mandated her execution; the Pharisees were about to enforce it. This woman exemplifies in the most dramatic way what each of our lives experiences in less dramatic fashion. In the end, we are all sinners. We all suffer the vulnerability of sin. What’s worse, when we become conscious of sin, our own pharisaical tendency leads us at once to condemn ourselves without hope of redemption, all the while seeking to exculpate the guilt by finding fault in others. We wind up stoning ourselves and others, when we should just turn to Christ. Here is the moment of truth: either accept the only redemption possible – letting go of self, coming to Christ, and letting him show us the way – or retreat further into the stronghold of our egoism, hoping we will just wake up from a bad dream. Humility is the only path to redemption, humility before our own sin and before the sin of others.
Messages in the Sand: Christ helps us to find the answers by enlightening the depths of our soul. He confronts the superficial, immediate and self-righteous reaction of the Pharisees with a mandate to go deeper and draw out from their consciences the answer to the question they put hypocritically to Christ: “Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Christ is silent. He allows their furious passions to quiet. He writes on the ground inviting them to reflect and then provides an answer only the Son of God could give: “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Christ gently teaches us to let our own superficial, immediate and self-righteous reactions to our sins and those of others give way to an attitude of prayer, reflection and docility that lets us be taught by him.
Absolution and Change: The experience of absolute helplessness is a necessary prelude to the experience of Christ’s mercy. The deeper our experience of our nothingness is, the deeper our experience of Christ’s mercy. There is no experience sweeter, or joy more profound, than absolution given by Christ the Redeemer: “I do not condemn you.” Our deepest insecurities disappear when we realize we are really haunted by the ghosts our own pride and vanity create. We need to wake up to the reality of God’s mercy.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, may the experience of my sin and nothingness move me to seek refuge in your mercy. You are the only one who stands by me in my hour of need. You have proven yourself as the only real friend.
Resolution: I will practice mercy and goodness of heart in my thoughts about others today. I will overcome my own tendencies to despair by trusting in Christ.