“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw” John 8:1-11
Reflection by Sarah Ceponis, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry Alumna
Back in the days of high school drama and cafeteria gossip, I remember hearing of a classmate who had supposedly cheated on his girlfriend. My friends and I, of course, had to discuss it, dissect it, debate it. “It’s so wrong!” I recall declaring. “I’d break up with him.” Back then, and for a long time, my world was full of moral absolutes: black or white, right or wrong, yes or no.
This memory, and my attitude at the time, is what first came to mind when reading today’s Gospel. I would have fit right in with the crowd, trying to persuade Jesus that the adulterous woman had clearly sinned. I can picture my teenage self, hand on my hip and a challenge in my voice: “Now what do you have to say, Jesus?”
Of course, Jesus is a step ahead of the crowds and me. He asks us to move beyond our moral absolutes, our hasty judgments, and our hardened hearts. He quietly suggests turning our gaze inward, and considering all the times we ourselves have fallen short, tripped up, did something wrong. “Who here has never made a mistake?” is what we hear from Jesus, and our indignation disappears in an instant. We drop the stones from our hands, and contemplate forgiveness instead.
Help me to remember that though we live in a world
quick to point fingers, to blame, to condemn, I can choose to
have mercy. Guide me to step away from the crowd, and to
realize that it often takes more strength to simply let a stone
drop, than to throw it. Give me the courage to go against the
grain, and always find a way to forgive.
Focus on: Social Justice
In working for a few years with men recently released from incarceration, I was thrust into a much deeper understanding of this Gospel. As friendships formed with these men, and their stories began to unfold, I found my “black and white, right and wrong” grasp on the world begin to fade away. The true meaning of social justice came alive in listening and learning about their pasts, drug deals and carjackings and robberies and all. I realized that criminal justice lets mistakes define a man, but social justice lets mercy do the defining. Justice can just as easily mean punishment, or forgiveness. Jesus makes clear, in this Gospel, which definition we should adopt.
If you would like to more deeply consider forgiveness this Lenten season, I suggest reading Bryan Stevenson’s powerful book Just Mercy. He shares his journey as a lawyer advocating for prisoners on death row, and introduces the beautiful concept of not just not throwing stones, but of catching them. Choose to be a stone catcher by reading Stevenson’s story, and perhaps, supporting or getting involved in his quest for fair and just treatment for all in the legal system.
This reflection is part of our Lenten Series – Download the Lenten Guide Here