There is an old joke that I have often heard, and maybe, you have too. In the joke, Jesus tells the crowd: "Whoever has no sin, cast the first stone." All of a sudden, from the back of the crowd, a stone flies and hits the woman caught in adultery. Then, Jesus turns to the crowd and says: "Mom, I told you not to come to these things!" One can only assume what happens next, and I don't believe it went very well for the woman caught in adultery.
I've always had a problem with this joke for two main reasons. First, it attributes murderous qualities to Mary, the Mother of God. I can't imagine her having picked up a stone for those reasons, let alone having thrown it at the poor woman caught in adultery. My second reason for disliking this joke is that in some ways, it speaks to our own disbelief in God's mercy. I think that in some ways, it speaks to a profound incredulity for being forgiven for being pardoned, for being made into a new creation. It is far easier that the woman caught in adultery was made to pay than to believe that she was given a free pass to go and live her life. I believe that the joke speaks to a fear that we may have, primarily, that if God only knew me or my sins, I would be WAAAAAAAY beyond God's mercy. We become captives to sin and the results of sin and believe ourselves to be placed outside of God's mercy, we believe that Mary does indeed throw that rock at us, because God will throw us out too! NOT TRUE! Instead of throwing us out, or getting rid of us, God's love reaches out, and even then we find it difficult to believe. We find excuses and reasons to seemingly limit God's mercy, but God's mercy is not limited by our weak ability. Instead, God's mercy reaches to us and changes us, it calls us from beyond our graves and fills us with the grace to be authentic. As we come to recognize this, we then start to have some compassion for the woman caught in adultery, not because we save her, but because we too walk away, because we too are not condemned, because we too discover the love of God at work in our lives. As this happens in our lives, we then start to realize what St. Paul meant by his words, "I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" We become people who are changed by God's grace and who are enriched by the ever present call to be ourselves and the joke we once told, becomes a poor distraction from those things that really matter, God's love, God's mercy, and God's joy! So we turn to God and humbly implore God's mercy be out-poured upon us. And as we do so, we celebrate the joy of God's love, a love that took on flesh and has redeemed you and me! As always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved. Blessed Lent. Fr. Rick