What will be new? I know the newspapers and news programs have been asking anybody they can “what do you hope for in a new pope”? How would you answer that? What NEW thing would you like to see God do through this Pope?
If anyone asked me, my answer would be – I hope we have a strong defender of the Catholic faith – someone who will protect what we have believed for 2000 years. At the same time, I hope our church finds new energy to evangelize folks – not just outside the church – but the people in the pews – and those who no longer come to Mass – to bring us all to a stronger belief in the teachings handed down from the Apostles. I pray that this transition of a new Pope is simply the turning of a page of history which continues the amazing story of the Body of Christ. The Lord IS doing something new – and I can’t wait to see what it is! Expect the unexpected!
Let’s look at the story in the Gospel….about the woman who was about to be stoned. In the PAST, the Jews knew they had every RIGHT to stone this woman to death. In fact, the only reason they didn’t already do it in this case is because Rome had forbidden them to put anyone to death. But this was their law – the law of God handed down from Moses. Ever since they left Egypt, God was very stern about them putting to death ANYTHING or ANYONE who threatened the law. If you have been watching the Bible on the History channel, you may remember what happened to King Saul. He spared the life of an opposing King, and for that, he lost favor with God. That’s how the Jews thought God worked! From experience, they saw that when Israel sinned, they were punished –severely – the first reading comes from one of those times of punishment when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon. So they took the law seriously… they didn’t want to be exiled again – so they tried to nip it in the bud! Paul was one of the greatest defenders of that law. In fact, it’s not in the story, but you can bet that Paul would have been one of the first people to get into this mob to stone this woman.
But notice something new happened in the second reading – Paul had spent his entire life zealously defending that law – but in today’s second reading – he says everything he lived for in the past he now considers rubbish! Pretty strong words… but he had found something NEW. Nobody expected Paul, of all people, to become Christian!!! Expect the unexpected.
Jesus doesn’t do the expected either. He doesn’t pick up a rock like any normal, self-respecting Jew… instead he draws with his finger in the dirt. That had to be SO frustrating to the people in that crowd. Here they were all fired up and ready to satisfy their thirst for blood – but Jesus lets the air out of their tires. “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” In other words, Jesus is saying – look – you all KNOW that YOU are sinners TOO – and there is NO sin that DOESN’T deserve death. If you are self-righteous enough to think that your sin is not as bad as hers, go ahead…stone her… but remember that whatever lack of mercy you show toward her will be shown to you in return.
Jesus is doing something new: In the mind of the Jew, JUSTICE was the chief characteristic of God… but Jesus is showing us that God’s MERCY triumphs over Justice.
Another thing to notice – put yourself in the shoes of the woman in the story. Imagine the shame – but more than that - imagine the fear! She had to be scared-to-death with this angry mob dragging her into the street and picking up rocks. Can you even imagine how scared we would be in that situation? That’s important – because it changes how we would react to the last line in the Gospel – “Go and sin no more.”
Well isn’t that nice of Jesus…such a pious thought… go and sin no more…. We hear the same thing when we leave confession- go and sin no more. It goes in one ear and out the other. But imagine if we realized like SHE did that WE DESERVED to DIE for our sins – and we just about got what we deserved. Those words of forgiveness from Jesus are more than ‘nice’… those words saved her very life…. You and I deserve the very same penalty for our sins. Yet – we tend to forget that. We haven’t been drug into the street by a blood-thirsty mob. It hasn’t become REAL to us.
(pick up stone) A friend of mine came home from church one evening and found her husband with another woman. What a shock… what a kick in the gut. Imagine the intense pain of betrayal she felt. Imagine the overwhelming anger which rose up inside of her as she kicked that other woman out….all the while thinking, “what am I going to DO with HIM!?”.
By all rights, she could have kicked HIM out as well. How can you do this TO ME!? Given the same situation, any one of us would have kicked the bum out! But she didn’t. Instead of kicking him out… she tried to forgive him. Instead of stoning him, they talked… and in talking, they resurrected a relationship. He realized how unworthy he was of such a forgiving wife…. And THAT realization helped him to change. No – it wasn’t easy – but in the end, their relationship is stronger now…because of the mercy she gave. She did the unexpected.
You and I have all had something like this happen. Some guy pulls out in front of us and causes us to have a wreck… somebody at work doesn’t pull their weight… our own parents made a big mistake when raising us… a brother or sister stole something that was rightfully ours in the will…. we have EVERY right to be angry with them! We have every right to stone them… to put them out of our lives. But Jesus is doing something new. He offers mercy instead of justice. Any time we pick up a stone – any time our anger flares up – we should remind ourselves that we TOO deserve to be stoned. Look at the rock in your hand…then think of the mercy of Jesus – and do the unexpected. (drop the stone)