Today’s Gospel Story (John 8:1-11) is the Woman Caught in Adultery. Church law of those days said she was to be put to death by stoning. The upright men of the Story were preparing to do just that. Jesus comes on the scene and says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. Then he says, “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you”. Church law condemned her, Jesus did not.
There are similarities to this Story in our own day. People are eager to condemn any who do not stick to their interpretation of how others should live, thus inflicting the very pain Jesus had no use for. If we want to know God’s values, we need only to look at Jesus and see how he lived and the choices he made. As Jesus hinted at when he said, “Let the one among you who is without sin”, each of us has our own story, and none of us fully understands anyone else’s story. So it is good not to be too quick to judge anybody. Each of us is a good person, made in the image of God, who is trying to get through a life that is not always easy. Judging others is a lot easier than taking a good look at ourselves.
The big issues these days are: people with an attraction to members of their same sex or whose orientations are not “approved”; abortion; getting married again after a failed marriage, and not fitting into the neat categories of church law; the serious offense of questioning what the hierarchy does not want questioned, or giving less than unquestioning obedience to the hierarchy. The Father sent Jesus among us to make his love known to us. How current threats and punishments do this I really don’t know. Much of what is done allegedly in Jesus’ name we don’t see Jesus himself doing.
God does not make mistakes, and God does not make junk. If folks are labelled as “intrinsically disordered”, says who? Jesus did not treat anybody that way, so why do we? Pope Benedict said; “Every one of us is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God, every one of us is important, every one of us is necessary, none of us is an accident”. Every one of us is beautiful, and reflects a unique image of God as only we can, because each of us is as God creates us.
With folks whose involvement in these issues is personal and close to home, the matter takes on a face, and we can see the truth of Benedict’s words, and the loving care of God happening right in front of us. Senator Rob Portman changed his position against same sex marriage when he learned his son was gay, saying, “all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage”. We are all persons, not legal categories. God’s gift are limitless among us. What some see as a limitation is itself a gift that we have not yet learned to recognize. Maybe we ought to stop trying to explain God, and just announce Her, since She seems to do a pretty good job of explaining Herself. If God just happens to agree with everything we think, doesn’t like what we don’t like, etc, we can be sure it is the god we are creating to make ourselves feel safe, in charge, and better than any who do not agree with us.
There is no doubt that abortion is a serious sin. But when a woman is considering abortion, she is not having an easy step on her journey. Unless we have been there, we do not understand her struggle, and we have no idea what is going through her mind. We do our best to provide alternatives and encourage her not to have one. After the fact, however, our focus, as shown in Rachel Ministry, is on providing for her healing and forgiveness. Upright folks of our own day freely pass judgement on women whose journey and story they know nothing about. Yet, there is nothing that can keep us from knowing God forgiving us, nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. Jesus makes this crystal clear. The hardest part of forgiveness is for the individual women to forgive themselves. Finger pointing and threats don’t make this any easier, especially when the folks doing it allege they are acting in God’s name.
Choosing to remarry after a failed marriage is a tremendous act of courage and trusting love. If it can be done within the church’s legal categories, all well and good. But, if it cannot for any number of reasons, why do these folks have to be denied the sacraments? They are not acting in defiance of the Church, they just want to be happy, and they aren’t hurting anyone. Jesus did not treat people this way.
It seems that some folks need to convince themselves they are better by finding folks they can label as worse in some way. Obedience to what some claim to be God’s law is a way to do this. Always, though, their interpretation of “God’s plan” is the only valid one, and all others are wrong. This is what Jesus fought against in his day, and we are still fighting against it today.
On a visit to St Mary Major Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis told the priest confessors there to “be merciful, the souls of the faithful need your mercy.” All of us need mercy, both to receive mercy from each other, and to be merciful to all whom grace brings into our lives. We do not need to judge or to be judged by any who demand absolute compliance to their interpretation of how we should live. We need to support each other on our journey, because, in the goodness of grace, we are all in this together.
Just sayin . . .