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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Casting Stones

During the past week I have been preparing my homily for this Sunday (5th Sunday of Lent, Year C) which gives us the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery who is brought before Jesus(John 8, 1-11). Let's face it, even atheists know Jesus' response to the crowd who wanted to stone her in accordance with the Mosaic law, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."

While we may comfort ourselves with the thought that we no longer stone people, at least not in this corner of planet earth, a closer look might offer a real challenge to our present society.

If we take a look at what is going on in Jesus' encounter with the adulterous woman and the crowds we realize that the issue is not only the "stoning", but rather the public spectacle and denunciation and condemnation of this woman. Jesus unmasks their intentions with His invitation to let the one without sin cast the first stone. He is reminding them that though their sins are not publicly known they are sins nonetheless. More importantly He is reminding them that if they repent they will receive the same mercy that He is showing to this woman.

While we don't stone people today we love the public spectacle and denunciation of the sinner, especially if the sin involves sex. (Money scandals are a distant second.) We gloat when the sins of a politician or an athlete are brought to the fore and we let it be known how shocked we are. I wonder if many are not privately thinking "I'm glad my stuff doesn't get known", or "I'm bad, but not that bad." We love to have a scapegoat, someone to blame or punish, rather than looking at our own faults and seeking the same mercy and forgiveness that Jesus showed to this adulterous woman.

I do want to give one caution with this reflection. I'm not saying that public figures and especially Church leaders involved in scandal should not be held accountable to the people they serve. In the Church especially there has been too much secrecy and cover-up in this regard. The point is to take a look at the self-righteous, morally superior smugness with which too many of us meet these situations. The call to all of us is to stop throwing stones and to seek the mercy of Jesus who is always so ready to forgive rather than condemn.

1 comment:

  1. Fr. John,

    I couldn't agree more. Here's a paragraph from my own homily for this weekend's masses:

    Like the scribes and Pharisees, we often judge the sins and faults of others. We need to ask for God's grace to break us of this habit. Tiger Woods is much in the news again this week as he makes his return from his adulterous scandal. How many of us have been "clucking" about his infidelities, reveling in his misfortune, hoping to see him twist a little more in the fickle winds of public opinion? Instead, we should pray for his conversion and redemption, pray for his family, and pray that an awareness of our own infidelities to God keep us from judging him.

    Good preaching, Father! Love, Deacon Dan

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