Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Mystery of Grace

The gospel text for today is the story from John of the woman caught in adultery.  It is a picture of misery and mercy. One can only imagine what it was like for this woman to be caught in the act and shamed in front of the Pharisees and the crowd that came to hear the teachings of Jesus.   In some ways,  she is almost collateral damage in the ongoing effort of   the church establishment to discredit Jesus.

So, as I spend time with this story I can identify with everyone in the scene: the judgmental and legalistic Pharisees, the guilty woman and the wondering crowd. But it is Jesus who is the central character.  Jesus who does not react but slowly writes in the sand.  Jesus whose question is profound and pricks me in my judgments "let anyone among you who is without sin, throw the first stone at her." Jesus who does not condemn but sets us on a new path: "from now on do not sin again."

What I see in this is the reminder that there is hope and new life for all of us despite our mistakes.  The stoning that was required by law led to the end of life.  The grace of Jesus and the way of Jesus is a changed heart and a new life.  And it always means hope.

One of the other readings today is Psalm 128 which begins like this:
All you who fear God, how blessed you are!
    how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!

What I keep learning is that I am happiest when I walk "his smooth straight road!" A simple example is in driving - I am most at ease and at peace when I stay within the speed limit.  Then there are no worries about police on the highway and speeding tickets.  If only life was as easy as that with clearly marked speed limits.  There are times - and maybe right now - when I am going too fast or on a bumpy side road.  It is comforting to know that grace is real and available  always as I come to recognize my wayward ways. 


Here is one of my favorite prayers by Thomas Merton

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think that I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
For you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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