Today is traditionally considered the first day of the season we in the northern half call spring. It is the beginning of the warmer, and so, the growing season. In the southern half is this season beginning the fall of leaves and life? I have such ponderings. I have also been wondering recently while eating an orange, if it tastes the same to me as it does to the person with whom I shared, generously, a section or two.
My Jesuit brother with whom I shared it is different in so many ways and tastes from me. Maybe to him it tastes like I think apples tastes. There is an old Latin phrase we use, “De gustibus non disputandum.” It literally means, “about tastes, there is no arguing.” Really it means that there should be no arguing if I like something and you do not. There are differences between and among us all. Differences in taste or anything are a celebration of God’s creativity and sharing.
My likes are not a reason for others not liking me or us. The more insecure I am about myself, my identity, the more importance I will place on differences. We are both living from and toward the celebration of God’s love for all of us in the Eucharist. Jesus blesses our separate distinctions and sends us out to be united rather than divided by what is unique and special about us, one and then all. We can pray with how an orange tastes to me, giving thanks for the orange and for those who might not like oranges at all.
Our First Reading from the Book of Isaiah opens with a poetic recalling of the greatest historical event in the records of the nation Israel up to that date. It does not mention the slavery in Egypt or Pharoe, or the Red Sea, because the people of Israel who are listening to this prophetic recital are in captivity and hold tightly to their national and religious history for comfort.
The power of this poem is the announcement that while sitting in Babylon’s exile, they are no longer to recall that event of their being saved. Something new, something even more salvific is soon to take place. They are invited to look ahead where the desert will bloom, rivers will flow and there will be new life for the people God has chosen anew.
Too feel this reading one must know what it is to be released, unbound, and freed. My father had a temper sponsored by the confusion about what he should do with us. He was caught between remembering all the things he did as a child, and which his mother, our grandmother, had told us, and what we had just done. He would send us to our rooms immediately, no ifs, no ands, and certainly no buts. We would be exiled, not knowing when or if ever release would be granted. We soon learned that it would be in about ten minutes. He worried, regretted, and eventually missed us. So sooner or even sooner he would come to see how we were and if we missed him, though he never admitted this until years later.
The people of Israel missed their fatherland and longed to be home as God’s family. This section from Isaiah is a reflection of our dad and then some. The people are to forget even the Exodus and all the events of their being created as a nation. Their new creation will be the new memory-point of their loved identity.
The Gospel is a perfect example of a central theme of John and his community. A woman who has violated the holy law of Moses by being caught in the very act of adultery is brought to Jesus so that He might be shamed as is she. The woman committing adultery actually shames her husband. To regain his honor, he has to do away with the adulterous partner. It could be assumed that this is why that fellow is not present nor her husband. The Law dictates that she is to be stoned. Will Jesus uphold the old?
Jesus does something new. He shames the honored of the community and honors the shamed. He writes her sentence in the dirt of the earth with His finger. He is writing a sentence of release for all those who live on the earth upon which He writes here and will write with His Blood. Her accusers slink off one by one into their shameful isolation. She is told to pick up her present from the past and take it all into her future, unshamed and now honored. This is definitely a new thing and it will ultimately redound to His being treated according to the old things.
The verses which follow this section contain Jesus’ proclaiming that He is the “Light of the world”. The theme of “light” is strong in John’s Gospel. You might want to refer to the third chapter immediately after His confusing Nicodemus. The elders brought this woman of darkness to be stoned. Jesus, as Light, illumines their darkness of heart and shines brightly as the honoring person Whose love casts out personal and collective darkness. I muse about how she lived with her past shame and her new honor. I wonder if she picked up stones to remember Him and she finds a place for herself in the community of John. I do not muse at the stones that were never thrown at me except by me when I forgot that His mercy is not meant just for others. His new thing never grows old.
“Neither do I condemn you- go and do not sin again.” Jn. 8, 11
p.s. For a perfect picture from literature of condemnation and shame, confer David Copperfield, chapter 50. Emily, a “fallen” woman, is verbally shredded by Miss Dartle, the self-righteous elderly woman, and then embraced and welcomed back by her long-searching uncle.
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