Thursday, March 14, 2013

We all need forgiveness

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
March 17, 2013

John 8:1-11

As was his custom, Jesus had spent the night alone with his beloved Father on the Mount of Olives. He begins the new day filled with the Spirit of God that sent him to "proclaim liberty to the captives...and to set the oppressed free." Soon he will be surrounded by a crowd who have come to the temple area to listen to him.

Suddenly, a group of scribes and Pharisees bursts in, bringing "a woman caught in adultery." They aren't concerned about the woman's terrible fate. No one questions her about anything. She's already condemned. The accusers make it very clear: "The Law of Moses commands us to stone adulteresses. You, what do you say?"

The situation is dramatic -- the Pharisees are tense, the woman, distraught, the people, expectant. Jesus remains surprisingly silent. He has before him that humiliated woman, condemned by all. Soon she will be executed. Is this God's last word on this daughter of His?

Jesus, who was seated, bends down and and starts writing some lines on the ground. Surely he is looking for some light. The accusers are asking him for an answer in the name of the Law. He will answer them based on his experience of God's mercy -- that woman and her accusers, all of them, are in need of God's forgiveness.

The accusers are only thinking of the woman's sin and the condemnation of the Law. Jesus will change the perspective. He will put the accusers before their own sin. Before God, all must acknowledge themselves as sinners. Everyone needs His forgiveness.

As they go on increasingly insisting, Jesus straightens up and says to them, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone." Who are you to condemn this woman to death, while forgetting your own sins and your need for God's mercy and forgiveness?

The accusers "go away one by one." Jesus is pointing to a coexistence where the death penalty cannot be the final word on a human being. Later on, Jesus will solemnly say, "I have not come to judge the world but to save it."

Jesus' dialogue with the woman sheds new light on his action. The accusers have gone away, but the woman hasn't moved. It seems she needs to hear a last word from Jesus. She still doesn't feel free. Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more."

He offers her his forgiveness and, at the same time, invites her not to sin anymore. God's forgiveness doesn't negate responsibility but requires conversion. Jesus knows that "God desires not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live."

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