Reflection – A Desire to be Understood

Today, in the Gospel according to John, we hear of the story of the woman caught in adultery.  It reminds us that sin, turning away from God and acting against our own dignity and worth, is not an ending.  Jesus’ response to those who accuse the woman is more than a caution to us about making judgement of others.  It is a profound lesson in divine mercy and forgiveness.  As sinners, we are all unworthy to judge the sins of others.  Jesus, the one without sin and thus our judge, offers us who are sinners, His mercy and forgiveness.  Redeemed by Jesus’ compassion, we, like the woman, are sent to sin no more and live in God’s love and peace.

I learned at a young age that I should not be judgemental of others, especially without the knowledge of what truly has led to this behaviour.  One day, I came home from school and told my mom about how mean some of my classmates were treating this one girl….”She stinks! I’m not sitting near her!”  My mother, a nurse who was working part-time with Public Health, would help in wellness clinics, go to certain houses to help with healthcare/ assessments (going to a doctor at that time in Ontario cost money) and she told me she knew where this girl lived.  She told me that even though there was water, there was no hot water where she lived so she couldn’t have the nice, warm bath like I could; nor would her clothes (school uniform) have been washed in hot water or hung outside to dry in the clean, warm air.  That was maybe why her hygiene wasn’t as good.  It wasn’t her fault so no one should judge her or her appearance.  Mom told me not to be like some of the others, reminded me that I should try to be a friend and show her kindness and never, ever judge others when we don’t know their particular situation.  This was a powerful lesson to me that I recalled when I read this week’s gospel.

Pope Francis, in citing St. Augustine, said, “Once those who sought to stone the woman left, only Jesus and the woman remained: mercy with misery”.   In His eyes, ‘that woman’, that person, was what was of value.  For Him, the sinner comes before the sin.  I, you, each one of us, come first in the heart of God… before mistakes, rules, judgements, and our failures.”

When Jesus forgave the woman, He did not excuse her sin or treat it lightly.  Rather, He expected a change of heart – confession and repentance.  In turn, He presented the woman with the opportunity to begin a new life. He saw her as valuable, precious, and worthy of love.  In going and sinning no more, it meant being brought back into a relationship with God. This is available to all of us, too.

Thomas Merton said, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth, plants something in his soul.” In a world that increasingly tells us that nothing matters, that we can be critical of someone’s behaviour, looks, and lifestyle, these words remind us that everything matters infinitely.  By not judging others without knowledge of the truth or by not thinking you are ‘better’ than others, you are saying to God, “I don’t want to disappoint you.  I want my actions to reveal the depth of my love for God and gratitude for the grace He gives us always.  As we enter the last weeks toward our Easter celebration, let us take heart and appreciate the mercy and forgiveness we receive in our relationship with God.

Cathy Keirstead


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