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.”
It would seem that even in the anti-bully, PC, “nice is a virtue” world that we live in, Christians still are considered incredibly horrible. Seriously, have you ever ventured into this Google search before?
Yeesh. Perhaps Catholics have fared better?
I was going to use this time to suggest that we should all form a Google bomb to reclaim our good name…something like “so awesome” or “so unfathomably beautiful” would work, I suppose. But as many of us are still on cloud nine from the election our beautiful new Papa (no longer orphans, horray!), this story came to mind:
“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”
Did you catch that? When I first read the story I was shocked; there is no WAY there are Christians–priests!–that would do that in today’s world. Apparently children born out of marriage are somehow blocked from receiving the graces of Baptism? The incredible lack of charity–accompanied of course by the incredible wisdom and awesomeness of our new Holy Father–were astounding. It is no wonder our reputation (particularly our reputation via internet) is so devastating.
It has caused me to reflect in my own life on the ways in which I have witnessed (or have participated in) such horrific judgments. I remember a time back in college when I first came to the realization: “wow, Christians can be big jerks.” I was at a talk of a very popular priest (a priest who was known around the country for his dynamic presentations). The talk was, in fact, incredibly engaging. I remember laughing, crying, staring with my jaw open as I listened to his beautiful conversion story and his eventual vocation in the Church. So I was sad when I realized I had to leave the talk early to meet up with some friends for a dinner meeting. As I was packing up my things to leave, the priest started talking about gay marriage. The tone of the entire talk shifted; what once was a respectful, engaging, often passionate presentation on personal conversion and the beauty of the Catholic faith became a comedy stage filled with mockery and sarcasm. And just as I stepped foot out of the door, I heard the WORST PHRASE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD: “God made Adam and EVE not Adam and STEVE.”
Ugh. Forget for a moment how incredibly ignorant and silly this very educated priest sounded. And forget for a moment that it’s a lazy attempt at a rhyme. It was so, so, SO incredibly hurtful, disrespectful and (yep, Google bombers) MEAN. I remember being flooded with emotions of anger, frustration, sadness, and gratitude that I was already out the door. (In the mean time, it sounded as if the majority of the crowd laughed and cheered at such sentiment. Oy.)
Thinking about the story makes me think about some of the ridiculousness of this year’s past election season. For me, the most frustrating times always happened after some big campaign speech (from either side). Almost without fail, one of the candidates made a comment that was just stupid. I mean, really, really stupid. But it made their constituents laugh (tee hee hee, big bird, empty chairs, tee hee hee), and that was the point. But when you’d look at the numbers, it did nothing to win over the “undecideds.” Why? Because they were empty, stupid phrases. They didn’t change hearts. They were said at the expense of others, often in cruel and disrespectful ways (aren’t you grateful we don’t have to endure the madness for at least another year?)
Now I happen to agree with the Church’s teaching on gay marriage and homosexuality. (Perhaps a blog post for another time?) But I do remember being so grateful to God that none of my gay friends were with me to hearsuch an incredibly insensitive (and STUPID) comment. Humor, sarcasm, and poking fun have their place in evangelism, I am sure, but mockery and cruelty do NOT. Perhaps there was someone in the crowd that evening struggling with being gay? What were they to think after such a comment?
And so it is out there: blatant, disrespectful “no thinking before we speak” treatment of others, particularly those who are non-Christian. And I know I have been guilty of this too in my own life. How easy it is to assume about one’s character and background based simply on their clothes, their job, or even where they live. How often we think these things, and perhaps even say them out loud.
What would our Lord do? What did He do when presented with such hypocrisy?
There are numerous theories on what Jesus was writing in the sand in today’s Gospel reading, and frankly I am not immersed enough in Scripture to even attempt to figure out which one sounds the most authentic. But as I read today’s passage again i kept thinking about Ryan and I attempting to discipline our toddler. We’re trying a new method (and it’s working REALLY WELL!) that involves listening, repeating, and distracting. One of the first things the book tells you to do is get down at your child’s level (even trying to get BELOW eye level) and listen to his words. I couldn’t help but think that, in a strange way, this is what our Lord was doing. He humbly listened (though he knew their real intentions), and, once they finished complaining, offered a gentle but firm declaration. He calls out their intentions but doesn’t attempt to humiliate them (or the woman). It all happens so casually, as if he genuinely LOVED these Pharisees (we often forget that he did, he really really did).
This is our witness to evangelization; this is how we will win hearts for Him. We must listen, humbly acknowledge other’s complaints, confusions or even hurts caused by the Church, then offer gentle but firm wisdom. We should never feel like we must apologize for the Church’s teachings, but it might not hurt to apologize for the actions of Catholics (including your own). And we close our conversations with Christ’s plea: “Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” We mustn’t shy away from this final part. In fact, in many of my conversations with non-Christians (who seem to love quoting this passage) they also seem to forget that incredibly crucial line. God calls us OUT of our sinfulness and INTO a life with Him, (a life, by the way, that is so incredibly happy). This is our mission in evangelization: to draw people out of sin and into a life with God. Bottom line. No apologies, no exceptions. But please, please, can it be done without the snarky, disrespectful rhyme games? Our Lord didn’t seem to need those to win hearts; we shouldn’t either.
How about we close with a beautiful quote from our Papa’s first Sunday Angelus?
“Let us not hear words of contempt or condone, but only words of love and mercy that invite us to conversion.”