And on this Sunday, amid all of the disgrace and scandal within the church the Gospel tells us of a woman caught in the midst of adultery, (my question is, where is the man?) dragged through the streets, demeaned and “disgraced”...screamed at and taunted, knowing all the time that she was about to be stoned to death!
Undoubtedly she could feel the intense violent energy of the crowd that was gathering around her...how desperate she must have felt knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it.
And yet Jesus stopped it...drawing in the sand...some scholars say, writing out the sins of the very people who had condemned her and were about to stone her, supposedly all “in the name of God.”
Jesus told the religious leaders they had it wrong...ultimately challenging “their laws” that demanded such violence. There has been much written about this Gospel story, about it being a story of second chances...a story of new beginnings.
Some scholars argue about the final line of this Gospel, as most translations have Jesus saying “neither do I condemn you, be on your way and sin no more.” However scholars point out that some ancient Greek texts do not actually contain the Greek words that would be translated, “sin no more” but rather these ancient texts in question use an archery term meaning “to take better aim”.
It would seem then that Jesus encouraged the woman to be on her way and to take better aim with her life. Perhaps this is a moment in the church for “the Church” to “take better aim” as she moves forward into the future.
Perhaps, with the help of the Holy Spirit, this upcoming synod could be a moment of openness of truly listening to each other, a moment of new insights, through the power of the Holy Spirit making new, as we heard of in the first reading: “See, I am doing something new.”
Perhaps it was no coincidence that on the first Sunday of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the Gospel story was about a “woman”, demeaned and disgraced, about to be violently murdered...a Gospel story about the place and treatment of women in Jesus’ culture and society and Jesus’ refusal to participate in the systematic oppression, misogyny and violent treatment of women.
I believe that this Gospel story does in fact call us to question the place and status of women in the church and in the world! Perhaps there is a lesson here for all of us, especially men and in particular the clergy and religious leaders!
In today’s Gospel...just as Jesus challenged the “law” and the religious leaders...so too we are called to do the same!
We live, still, in a world where women are bought and sold...where they are leered at, but not listened to...where true lasting and substantive justice and equality remain denied to women and especially women of color. It was all on full display these past days in the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
And while the official church has been vocal on civil and human rights abuses of women around the world she remains far too silent on the just and meaningful place and role of women within the church!
And so we should ask ourselves, especially, those of us who are men, how do I treat women in my life? What do I really think about the role of women in church and society? Do my views on women and their role and place in church and society truly reflect Gospel values? What would Jesus think about my views? And let us all try to take better aim with our lives...