Have you ever met someone who seems perfect? No one is, of course, but it’s a fact that some folks just seem to have it all together. They seem to be patient and kind, generous, helpful, talented, smart, athletic, musically talented, and easy going. They can get things done, but don’t stress. They are humble and magnanimous all that the same time. If you ever point out that they seem to have it all together, they will gracious thank you for the compliment, but then explain how sometimes they eat chocolate on a weekday and can’t seem to grow larger carrots in their raised garden beds, as if these are major character flaws.
In the gospel this Sunday we hear about a character that no one would call perfect. Jesus is presented with a woman caught in the act of adultery. The crowd wants to stone her because that’s what the law says. Jesus calmly writes on the ground and then invites those in the crowd to feel free to throw stones if they themselves are without sin. In other words, Jesus says if anyone present is perfect then they can judge.
The irony of course is that Jesus is the one person present who is perfect. Jesus is the lone judge standing before her. When it comes time to pass his judgement Jesus choses mercy. He doesn’t say what she did was okay or normalize adultery, but he choses not to condemn her. Then he sends her on her way commanding her to not sin any more.
What is fascinating is Jesus’ last line, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” The word that gets me is “Go.” I think this word gets lost in Jesus’ next command to go and sin no more. In fact I think Jesus is giving two commands.
Jesus commands another group of people to “Go,” at the end of Matthew’s gospel. In that moment it is the disciples who Jesus commands to, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” What Jesus is say by using the same emphatic, imperative here is that both the disciples and the woman caught in adultery are being sent.
What does that mean? Jesus doesn’t just send perfect people to do his will. Jesus doesn’t just invite perfect people to follow him. Jesus doesn’t call upon the perfect to become pilgrims on the journey towards heaven. The good news of the gospel is that even if you consider yourself a wretched sinner Jesus is calling you. If you’ve ever said, “I’m not good enough to be a church person or a real Christian.” You were wrong.
Jesus wants to reconcile you. Jesus desires to show you mercy. Jesus wants to send you out. Jesus can and will command you to go. Being a sinner doesn’t preclude you from being close and being called by Jesus.
Live It: The key to this exchange is that before Jesus sends the woman, he shows her mercy. Before we can be sent, we need God’s mercy. The best way to do this is to head to Confession. Receive God’s mercy and be sent this Lent.