Pink blossoms framing a stone status in the Cathedral gardens

John 8:1–11

Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 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. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

“Your God would never punish you for being a human being: this life itself is your penance…But it is also more than that: it is a crucible for transformation. Each trial, every loss, is an opportunity for you to meet suffering with love and make of it an offering, a prayer. The minute you lift your pain like a candle, the darkness vanishes, and mercy comes rushing in to heal you.”

This quote from Mirabai Starr reminds me of the “adulterous” woman featured in John’s Gospel. I place the word in quotes because in Mosaic law both the man and the woman stand together under the death penalty (Lev. 20:10). The religious authorities in John conveniently leave her paramour out of the picture, despite (ostensibly) catching the two of them in flagrante. What’s really happening here is that these scribes and Pharisees are laying a rhetorical trap for Jesus. Unfortunately, the Son of Man suffers no fools, and simply says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They skulk away.

Jesus, now alone with the accused woman, asks a couple of rhetorical questions. “Women, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She responds, “No one, sir.” And then with every drop of merciful grace ever to be showered on this human existence of ours, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” Can you even imagine! This is the moment she is brought through, when her suffering is transformed into and by LOVE incarnate. When Jesus tells her to, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” his mercy vanquishes her darkness—and ours.

As we get closer to Holy Week, I hope you will not be sideswiped or overcome by the incessant noise, worry and disruption generated by the virus. Take a moment to reconnect with this Lenten season. Approach Jesus in your prayers. Make amends. Allow yourself to be immersed in his mercy, grace and love. Your Easter rebirth awaits you.

With love,

Father-Mother God,
May the Children of Abraham and Sarah
At last fall silent in the face of your radiance.
May our hearts soar in remembrance.
May our knees bend and our bodies bow down,
And our spirits rejoice,
Overflowing with unceasing prayer,
Resounding and cleansing and blessing all the land:
There is nothing but you,
Nothing but God,

(Mirabai Starr)