Well, I have been right out straight–Lent has flown by, though I have observed it closely, at depth, and with interest.
Mostly, I’ve been working on a St. T of Lisieux study guide which has necessitated many many days of hard-core, without-much-of-a-break work. Thus I have not been able to devote as much time as I might otherwise to my labor-of-love blog posts.
Nonetheless, today’s Gospel is the parable of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and as I was reading it this morning, I had a new (for me) insight.
As you probably know at one point Jesus kneels and starts writing in the sand with his finger. Nobody has ever quite agreed on or figured out what he was writing. He then straightens, tells the crowd, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and then “Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.” Everyone falls silent and leaves. So it’s just him and the adulterous woman. She’s standing up and he’s kneeling. THEN he straightens up, looks her in the eye (we can presume with total love) and says, “Has no-one condemned you?” “No-one, Sir.” “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
So what struck me was that for a moment at least Jesus put himself in a position of humility before her.
Maybe to put her at ease because how horrifying would it be to think you were about to have a bunch of puffed-up self-righteous men heave stones at you till you were reduced to a bloody pulp and died? What kind of hideous anxiety could the woman have been in ever since she got caught?
Or maybe he stayed bending down to underscore that, unlike the crowd, he was not using her as a scapegoat. He wasn’t letting her off the hook, either. He wasn’t pretending she hadn’t sinned. But he knew damn well that everyone else in that crowd had also sinned, one way or another. And he was not going to use her as the scapegoat.
Note that they’re on the Mount of Olives, in which is located the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ will be arrested the night before he dies.
So I thought of the next or other time we see him in such a bodily posture: on Holy Thursday, after the Last Supper, when he puts a towel around his waist and insists upon washing the feet of his disciples. So it’s almost as if the woman caught in adultery is a kind of mirror image, except female, for the washing of the feet. He’s recognizing that, especially back then, and especially in matters of sex and love, women bear the brunt, take the blame, get left holding the bag–whether that happens to be a child, or a broken heart, or both–while the guy so often gets off scot-free.
All the same–go and sin no more. Jesus totally gets the ache of womankind for love, but he also knows the kind of shortcuts we’ll sometimes take. And he kneels before the whole complicated mess, saves the woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death, and gives her the blueprint for new life.
And tells the guys in so many words, Nice try, but how about taking the plank out of your own eye before you go around trying to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s? And by the way, your effort to silence her is hideously evil, weak, and cowardly–the opposite of the character of a real man and a real human being.
I’m sure many others have made the same observation and articulated it a lot more clearly, but part of the glory of the Gospels is that we get to make our own discoveries.
In other news, Allegiant Air has now cancelled two RT flights in a row, nefariously keeping the $150 voucher I was issued for the first one (to Santa Maria, CA), and that I used for the second one (to Traverse City, Michigan, which I will probably now never see)! I have protested of course but as you can imagine, their customer service lines are a tad busy. Not fair!
Tomorrow I am going to submit my weekly column, then take off for Tumacácori National Historical Park, an hour or so from here, and take a nice long walk along the Anza Trail.
Cause I REALLY need to get away from my laptop for a day.
Meanwhile, don’t get caught in adultery (or engage even if you don’t get caught)!