It’s dangerous to read today’s Gospel about the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ response as "just" a story. We are being presented with a life and death situation. The stones are at hand ready to injure and kill whoever breaks God’s law. The elders wanted Jesus dead as well as the woman and were laying a trap for him.
Bishop Robert Morneau
But we know the rest of the story. Hopefully, that great line of Jesus will be forever embedded in our hearts: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7b). No one is innocent. We have all sinned. We all stand in need of God’s mercy.
St. Paul has good advice for the woman and for all of us: "Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13b-14). The past is past and cannot be undone. We have all been given an "upward calling" to be agents of God’s love, light and life. This would be forever the vocation of the woman; it would be St. Paul’s vocation as well.
Isaiah the prophet relays a message he received from God: "Remember not the events of the past, things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!" (Is 43:18-19a).
God is always there. We lean into the future with hope, knowing that God is creating something new. We cannot live in the past. Rather, we are to go forward and sin no more.
Lent provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon who God is in our lives. Every time we pick up the Bible or celebrate liturgy, we are drawn into the presence of our biblical God. Too often our concept of God is mistaken. We need the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand more deeply the God revealed in Jesus, a God of infinite love and mercy.
The woman caught in adultery experienced a Lord who refused to condemn her. He sent her forth, free and forgiven, with the mandate to sin no more. St. Paul was willing to accept the loss of everything in exchange for the knowledge and participation in the life of Jesus. In fact, Paul claims that it was not his possessing Jesus that was at the center of his life but rather his being possessed by the Lord. And the great Isaiah, given the difficult task of being a prophet, spoke of a God who continues the work of creation and the giving of life in all circumstances.
The spiritual writer Ruusbroec says it well: "God is a radiant light that is common to all and that sheds its brightness upon heaven and earth and upon each person according to his need and his desserts."
Questions for reflection
1. What is your "upward calling?"
2. In what sense is God making everything new?
3. Do you have any stones in your arsenal?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.