March 25, 2007


Go, and from now on do not sin any more. – John 8: 11

The Scribes & Pharisees reflect a common human trait still very much with us: the tendency not to only hold up people’s mistakes to ridicule but also never let them forget it. Even if we think of ourselves as tolerant, we will always see that person through the lens of their sin. Let’s take a collective example of how this works in our own time.

A starlet announces that she is pregnant out of wedlock & coyly tells no one who the father is, thereby depriving the unborn child of half of its heritage. A well-to-do married couple didn’t want the messiness of pregnancy, so they purchased a sperm from an anonymous donor & an egg from an anonymous donor. Then they hired a surrogate mother to gestate the baby. Before birth, however, they divorced so the child has been legally declared to be parentless. This child is deprived of any heritage whatsoever. In this kind of moral environment, it is no wonder that there is alienation & fragility & non-commitment deep in the lives of so many children.

Think of the vast number of grandparents throughout the land raising their children’s children. Think of all the males, like the absent man in today’s Gospel, who get license to be irresponsible. Think of all the lonely children who live their lives without the presence of adults.

Add to this mix the culture of violence that is so omnipresent today. Children have been desensitized to violence, sold on it. They are taught by the media that it is the best way to settle things. Only in real life bullets kill & cause immeasurable pain; in real life there is no movie sequel to death. What all this adds up to is a climate hostile to the physical, mental & moral health of children. It’s time for other models, for healers. That is where Jesus comes in.

Finger-pointing & hand-wringing won’t hack it. Accusations only make people defensive. There are no sinless ones. No one can cast the first stone because everyone lives by the grace of the forgiving God. The question is not the condemnation of adultery or violence or whatever, but the continuing blindness of people to the universal necessity of forgiveness. The longer people live in self-righteousness & condemnation, the more difficult it is to see the truth & life-giving potential of an alternative.

All judgment in this world must be in the service of hope. Everything is geared toward the unfolding of new life. The imperative to “Go, & sin no more” applies to us all. A line from the movie Steel Magnolias: “If you can’t say anything good about anybody, you just come over here & sit right next to me.” Holding people in their mistakes is a popular pastime. Few can resist it. Even fewer understanding the “handcuffing of people” that is really going on.

Sin sticks. Just ask anyone who has been caught, brought & made to stand there. Forgiveness sees all of us as poised on the edge of a future that others are called to help us toward. In this vision, the most profound word of forgiveness is “GO!” AMEN!