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John 8:1-11

The Word of God

Early in the morning he 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.'

John 8:1-11
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • The Australian theologian and Bible scholar, John Painter, draws attention to something critical that easily be missed in this passage: ‘The pronouncement of forgiveness is stated first and is not made conditional on the turn from sin. Rather, the turning from sin seems to flow from the experience of forgiveness.’ Do I believe in the possibility of radical forgiveness?
    • It is often said that it is easier to give than to receive. Are there times when I find it easier to forgive than to believe myself forgiven? The Irish Jesuit, Blessed John Sullivan, urged participants in a retreat to ‘Be always beginning. Let the past go. The saints were always beginning. That is how they became saints.’
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    • When I physically point my finger at someone I have three fingers pointing back at me! When I am caught falsely accusing others what is it like?
    • Have you experienced being challenged for doing something wrong by someone who loves you or by someone who is hostile to you. What has been the difference? To be forgive and be forgiven is a wonderful healing.
    • Bring to Jesus any unresolved conflict or hurt in my life as we are reminded to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ‘
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    • This story tells us about people who came to Jesus with different mindsets.  The Pharisees and scribes were sure they were right and the woman knew that she had done wrong.  The effecting of meeting Jesus and letting Him into their lives changes them powerfully.  The Pharisees and scribes, through the words of Jesus were able to see that they too were sinners, like the woman they were accusing and they were not perfect.  The woman, expecting to be punished for her error, received a lovely acceptance from Jesus which must have left a lasting impression on her. 
    • A meeting with Jesus is always a life-giving experience, as he himself has said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
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    • We have all sinned. We have all experienced overwhelming shame. Even if the sin is not discovered, our own self-accusatory voice can so loud in our head that it drowns out the gentle voice of Jesus, telling us to begin again.
    • If we cannot believe ourselves forgiven, how will we ever be able to move out of what the philosopher Ivan Illich describes as “our self-imposed cages”?
    • Lord, you who opened the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind, let me hear your words of forgiveness; let me see and believe in the possibility of a better life.
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    • Who do you most identify with in this story? The adulterous woman who, though guilty, did not deserve death by stoning? (Besides, where was her partner in adultery? Was he not equally guilty?) Or do you see yourself in those who condemned her, shamed her publicly and were willing to stone her? Or do you identify with Jesus who spoke kindly to her, refused to condemn her, and simply encouraged her to lead a more moral life in future? Mercy is a high priority in Jesus' value system. Is there someone to whom you are called to be merciful (forgiving)?
    • What was Jesus writing on the ground? Some later manuscripts add "the sins of each of them"? Is this likely? Does it make any difference what he wrote?
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    • Where do I stand in this scene: like the woman standing before her accusers? Like a silent sympathiser hoping that something will happen to save her? Like the skulking male adulterer who got her into this trouble? Like the bystanders already collecting the best stones with a view to a killing? Like one of the elders who slink away, unable to cast the first stone? What goes through my head as Jesus is doodling in the sand?
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    • Jesus prayed for his own sake and that others might believe through his prayer and his example. Prayer is never a solitary exercise, even when we pray alone. It brings us in touch with the body of Christ, of Jesus who is risen from death, and of Jesus present in all his people. Prayer affects the lives of others; in that sense prayer is political, affecting how we live together, asking to be unbound and live in freedom like Lazarus. Knowing that others pray with Sacred Space can help my life of prayer.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Jesus prayed for his own sake and that others might believe through his prayer and his example. Prayer is never a solitary exercise, even when we pray alone. It brings us in touch with the body of Christ, of Jesus who is risen from death, and of Jesus present in all his people. Prayer affects the lives of others; in that sense prayer is political, affecting how we live together, asking to be unbound and live in freedom like Lazarus. Knowing that others pray with Sacred Space can help my life of prayer.
    • These words of Jesus are spoken all the time: ‘I do not condemn you’. In prayer we often feel condemned for our past, or just for whatever in ourselves makes us feel shame. We condemn ourselves for meanness in the past, for our use of people for our own ends. We may also condemn ourselves for feelings we have or aspects of our personalities of which we feel ashamed. We can do nothing better than come before the Lord in shame and sin, and allow the words of mercy, ‘I do not condemn you’ fill the shame, the guilt which makes our hearts and souls so empty.
    • Jesus is the one who never condemns, even when we are most condemnatory of ourselves. The look of Jesus to this condemned woman saved her - the look of divine and everlasting love. In prayer we can bring all the shame and guilt of our lives to this story of forgiveness and hear words spoken to each of us - ‘I do not condemn you.'
    • As the people reflected on their lives and realized their need for forgiveness, they turned and went away. As I reflect on my life and consider my need for forgiveness I realise that I need to draw closer to Jesus, who loves me.
    • I hear the words of Jesus speaking to me - not condemning me, but giving me a new mission and anew vision of myself.
    • This story often invites people to heap criticism on the Pharisees; we can become critical, judgemental and superior just as we notice these traits in the Pharisees. 'Don't look out', Jesus says, 'look in'. I look in to my heart and become aware of my own need for forgiveness.
    • What Jesus said to the woman he says to me, 'I don't condemn you. Go on your way and don't sin.' I am before Jesus, not condemned but being sent on my way, loved and trusted.
    • If Jesus were to write a quiet message on the ground for me, what would it be?