What we must leave behind
In the second reading for this Sunday, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul shares that he has given up everything because he knows the things he valued before encountering Christ don’t really matter. In fact, further to that they are rubbish. While material things are part of what we need to leave behind, we are also called to rid ourselves of our attitudes. This is the real challenge, and this is where we see the connection between the second reading and the Gospel for today.
In the John’s Gospel account, we hear the story of the woman brought to Jesus by the community as a sinner. He tells those that have not sinned to cast the first stone; eventually, as we know, they all leave. Jesus is writing in the sand while the accusers are speaking to him. There are several theories as to what he is writing, yet they amount to the same thing. Whether he is writing the names of sinners, or the sins committed by others, what this points to is that Jesus already knows our hearts. We do not need to bring others’ faults to his attention; what is important is paying attention to our own hearts. It is not our job to keep track of others’ sins. As they all leave, what we are left with is an act of reconciliation. I believe here is where the important message lies. “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8.11) For those of us that participate in the sacrament of reconciliation, these are the words we hear.
The woman has now healed her relationship with God, our merciful God. Jesus came to show us another way of being and pointing out others’ faults is not part of his plan for us. Paul says that we need to give up everything, including “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ…” (Philippians 3.9). Again, giving up our attitudes will be the hardest part. As Christians we are called think about our relationship God as well as each other. It is so easy to get pulled back into an old way of being that called us to seek punishment and even violence to pay for mistakes made. God is not interested in punishing us, and this is demonstrated to us by the Word made flesh in this encounter with the woman called out by the crowd. God is interested in being with us as we try to live in community, and we need to be interested in seeing God in our lives and in each other.
Today’s psalm reads: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” (Ps 126) This is the greatest gift of all, the ability to have joy. We can leave behind all material things and ways of thinking if we can trust we are able to attain joy though our relationship with God. This is the only way we will be able to be the people God calls us to be.
By Serena Shaw
Vocation Team – Oblate Associate