We like to point at others and say Look at that one! Look how bad that person is! There can be something satisfying and perhaps titillating about pointing to someone else's faults as opposed to trying to understand and correct our own. I think this penchant for looking at others as opposed to ourselves is just part of our human condition that we need to do our best to resist. After all, it is much easier to find fault with others and to judge them, than to do the hard work of examining ourselves.
The Gospel account we are given today is one of my all time favorites: of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Oh my, imagine the sweet vindication those Pharisees must have felt thinking they were going to trap Jesus with this sinful woman they were bringing to him. Can't you just see all of them salivating? Jesus doesn't rise to the bait, but points them to examine themselves before they judge another. He doesn't condemn her either when they leave but tells her to live a better life.
I try to remember this account when I am in the heat of annoyance or self-righteousness at some perceived (or even real) transgression in which I am immersed. From this account comes generosity of spirit and understanding of the human condition. A different understanding of righteousness and justice emanates from Jesus' treatment of this person. She was no longer the "adulterous woman" but an individual who has been asked to become a better person.
I think of this account when I find myself getting angry at the self-righteous and hypocritical actions of former leaders in The Episcopal Church, who have such certainty that they know what the true and orthodox way is. As I think on this Gospel account, I find my anger ebbs and in its place comes a deep sadness, and pity, because these former leaders who have perpetrated such a deep betrayal of a sacred trust that was placed upon them, have proven themselves to be those Pharisees in today's Gospel account. Their certainty, and perhaps their own selfish ambition, have blinded them to Jesus' message. And that makes me sad, not particularly for them, but for those who they are misleading.
We can all be better people than we currently are. Having a community of loving and faithful people to assist us in that journey helps refocus the anger, refocus the sadness onto a consideration of the mystery we will celebrate in 15 days. This is not an easy thing to do. But judgment and condemnation are not for us to decide upon.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved