While the snow is melting quickly, there is no sand yet to write on. The tracks of animals had danced around this area when I walked it a few weeks back. I wondered then what the story was of these footprints. I wonder now who stumbled upon the musings of Jesus after he, the men, and the woman caught in adultery had exited–if they tried to decipher what had occurred earlier in vain. Jesus had made a way in the wilderness for each person present.
This story, one about sinfulness and great forgiveness, is echoed in the other readings today. In the First Reading, Isaiah speaks of the new things that will spring forth–we should not consider old. Psalm 126 can help us visualize how the woman left that circle of male accusers–weeping she arrived, but I am convinced she must have gone home with shouts of joy. Philippians 3 guides us to the real prize in life–Jesus. He is the One who will free us from all our sin, just like that woman. He may also be the one who shows us our own hearts when all we want to do is point fingers. How do we learn not to condemn others? In this Year of Mercy, God wants us to find a way to forgive others and ourselves. If Jesus himself can say that he does not condemn, then can we too release mercy into our world by saying, neither do I condemn you. We must also learn to say this to ourselves, opening ourselves up to receive mercy too.
One by one, the scribes and Pharisees walk away, beginning with the elders, until Jesus is alone with the woman. The elders had recognized quickly the unworthiness of their own lives to throw stones at someone else. Christ does not let the woman off the hook–he calls her to a redeemed life: Go, sin no more. We are all called to be more than how others see us and often, how we see ourselves.
My social worker recommended a book to me, The Four Things That Matter Most, by Dr Ira Byock. I think it is no accident that two of the essential phrases are regarding forgiveness: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”. In all the work that I have done over the years, some of my most meaningful moments are regarding forgiveness. When I was in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, survivors of the Rwandan and Burundian genocides, and the victims of war and violence in DR Congo and Kenya struggled to forgive. The men in prison that I visit monthly often cannot forgive themselves for what they have done if they are truly working on the truth of what the crime was all about. We need all mercy. We all need to say–neither do I condemn you. Jesus will be our Saviour if we let him. He will reach out and wipe away the marks in the sand or snow. We will go home with shouts of joy and the former things will be made new.
Who have you condemned recently that needs your mercy?
What does Jesus need to make new in your life?
Scribbles in the sand free us from condemnation, Jesus. You are merciful and quick to restore our lives so that we may return home again with shouts of joy. May we go forth thanking you for the great things that you have done and committed to sin no more. Amen.