Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 5th Sunday of Lent

Is 43:16-21 • Phil 3:8-14 • Jn 8:1-11

You Must Feel Good to Become Good

How was Jesus different from the other religious leaders of his time? I think it was because of his capacity to be compassionately present to all sorts of people and to all kinds of situations. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the story that we have today about the woman taken in adultery.

While Jesus is preaching there is a commotion on the periphery. A woman has been caught in the very act of adultery and she is brought to Jesus by the scribes and pharisees. They tell him, "We have a law and according to that law she should be stoned to death. What do you say?" (Some interesting questions that arise. Does it not take two to tango? Where was the man? and how did they know what was going on unless they were Peeping Toms?)

The Scribes tell Jesus that there is a law and according to this law she is to be stoned to death. Jesus does not accept their legalistic solution. Rather, he thinks, "How does this woman feel?" Terrible, no doubt, with everyone pointing fingers of condemnation at her. "What does she need?" To feel better. Perhaps her low self image was the very reason why she had entered into the disreputable relationship. Jesus knew the simple psychological law that we cannot be better unless we feel better. (Sadly this is something often missed in daily life. A child feels bad enough when he or she presents a poor report card. If castigated, all the child's energies will go into self defense, and growth will become impossible.) So how does Jesus make the woman feel better? After writing on the ground he says "Whichever one of you has no sin throw the first stone." We can imagine the woman bracing herself to bear the pain of the stones. Instead she hears the plop as the stones the by-standers were holding were dropped to the ground and, beginning with the eldest, they walk away. She looks up and finds herself alone with Jesus but not alone in the classification of sinner. In their walking away, ironically, each of the men joined her. They all admitted that they were just as bad as she was. She feels better. And it is only when she feels better that Jesus asks her to be better.

Most of us have been taught from childhood to feel bad about ourselves. We have been shamed into conformity and taught that we were bad if we did not perform as others expected us to. On the other hand Jesus loved all, irrespective of their behavior. He saw each person as good even if their behavior often left much to be desired. He was compassionately present to all.

In meditation we are compassionately present to ourselves. We are not talking to ourselves or about ourselves. We are not depreciating ourselves or blowing our own horns. We are just being with ourselves, being at our centers where the compassionate God resides. We are learning to be compassionately present to ourselves imperfect though we are. When we can be compassionately present to our sinful selves we can also be compassionately present to the sinful others. And this is what love is all about.


Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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