Do Not Sin Anymore
March 30, 2020 Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
John 8: 1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. 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. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I marvel at your wisdom and penetrating insight. You can see into the hearts of both the accused and the accusers. You see into my heart as well; I am a confusing mix of good and bad. Please enter into my dark places to heal me, and write your love on my heart. I pray for the grace of a pure heart.
1. “Jesus Went to the Mount of Olives”: We know from the Passion narratives that Jesus often went to the Mount of Olives to pray to his Father. This encounter with the sinful woman essentially begins by noting that Jesus spent the prior evening in prayer. Quiet prayer in the still of the night can sometimes feel particularly powerful. Too often, we are caught up in the “doing” and forget Jesus’s powerful example of proper order. We should be deeply rooted in prayer so that we are strong enough to accomplish our work—and so that our work is truly his work.
2. “This Woman Was Caught in the Very Act”: Only the woman was accused of this act of adultery, although there was obviously a partner in crime. Every sin has a ripple of cause and effect, even those committed alone. We are made for communion, and our actions–both evil and good–affect others. Lord, may we, like you, seek to build up ourselves and our community by living virtuous lives, trusting that our good actions affect many more souls than those we know and love.
3. “Go and Sin No More”: Jesus was extraordinarily kind to this woman! He was gentle, protective, and forgiving. But because his love for her was so deep, he wanted the highest good for her and therefore challenged her to “go and sin no more.” Some seem to forget this final line—this mark of true respect for her. Jesus did not come to affirm us in our sins. He came to redeem us and teach us how to live lives of true goodness and love. Let us not fall into misguided compassion for others that may cause us to think, “Who am I to judge?” and excuse all sins. Rather, let us admonish one another lovingly. Like Jesus, through our words and example and prayers, let us hate the sin, but truly love the sinner.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Jesus, so often when I read the Gospels I want to cheer when you put the self-righteous in their place. I love how you stand up to the scribes and Pharisees, but I seem to forget that I, too, can be judgmental. Please help me to recognize sin for what it is and to fight it. At the same time, please help me to respond with true love to others who sin, even if it means I may have to step out of my comfort zone a bit for that person.
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will try to spend some extra time praying for the conversion of sinners.
For Further Reflection: There is some discussion as to whether this woman was Mary Magdalene. Many scholars now agree with that supposition. If true, then this woman later stood at the foot of the Cross. She saw with her very eyes the price paid for her forgiveness in this encounter with Jesus. Spend time reading your favorite Passion narrative, and imagine yourself, your sins, and your story entering into the moments that unfold, and see very tangibly and very personally, the price paid for your sins.