“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”John 8:7
Here’s a word that doesn’t judge anyone! Jesus challenges each one of the onlookers to search his heart and, faced with the woman’s sin, to question himself! A new path can open up by setting out from the truth about oneself in the presence of Jesus.
Jesus continued to write while he was on the ground as if he was writing in the hearts of his listeners. Only Jesus’ word can reveal our sinfulness and give us permission to let go of the negative patterns of thought and behavior that are typical of our old selves: self-blame but also blaming others; feeling guilty and making others feel guilty; or, even self-justification and denying our share of responsibility.
Jesus must write another law deep within us, the law of forgiveness and mercy. This law consists in recognizing our faults and turning to him to admit our radical powerlessness to do good on our own, through our own power. Our faults and the faults of others are an invitation to acknowledge this powerlessness in order to truly rely on Christ and his grace.
We are invited to accept our poverty to continually cultivate our offering to mercy. In this way, we will experience how all the good we do comes from God and the evil we commit invites us to grow in trust and receive healing from Jesus. Any good recognized in us and in others invites us to thanksgiving; any evil, to the recognition of our radical weakness, impels us to progressively rely on God alone.
“Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”John 8:9
The woman was so terrified, unmoving as if she was locked up by her guilt and the judgment of the scribes and Pharisees, it seemed that she still felt that all of the accusers’ eyes were staring at her.
We can feel like this inside ourselves. The presence of Jesus is our liberation. We are invited to listen to him speak to us! He comes to help us get out of this confinement! There is no judgment on his part: he helps us to speak again but he also helps us to set out once again on life’s path with greater freedom. He speaks of condemnation, but to separate us, to remove us from it and from its deadly power over us.
Then when Jesus asks, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (Jn 8:10), we can answer with the woman: “No one, Lord!” (Jn 8:11). Jesus’ presence has taken the place of anguish!
When Jesus is welcomed in this way, we are able to set out on a path to a new life. Sin is in the past; it has been put behind us and overcome; life, true life, lies ahead of us with Jesus!
Fr. Denis-Marie Ghesquières, OCD
Prior, Convent of St. Joseph, Paris, France
Frère Denis-Marie Ghesquières is the prior of the historic community of the Discalced Carmelite friars of Paris, which in pre-revolutionary Paris was known in French as Saint Joseph des Carmes. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection was a member of this community, serving as a lay brother. It was this convent that became a makeshift prison for priests, bishops, male religious, and laity during the early years of the French Revolution. At 4:00 in the afternoon of 2 September 1792, an armed mob descended on the convent, which had served as a prison since 10 August.
One Jesuit escaped, Father Saurin, and an injured diocesan priest, Father De La Pannonie. Father Saurin said that the difference between the spiritual calm and serenity of the Carmelite prison and the noise and furor of Revolutionary Paris was like night and day.
Father De La Pannonie wrote, “I never heard one complaint from those whom I saw massacred” on 2 September in the Carmelite cloister garden.
Of the 3000 victims of September 1792, 191 martyrs were beatified by Pope Pius XI on 17 October 1926.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: Christ and the sinner was executed in oil on canvas by Russian painter Andrey Mironov in 2011. We’re grateful that he made this artwork available through a Creative Commons license on Wikimedia Commons. You can visit his online studio to view more artworks by this prolific artist (Russian text only).
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