I actually see this struggle in couples that I prepare for marriage. One of the questions asked of them says: “Under no condition could I remain married to my spouse if they were unfaithful to me.” For engaged couples, this question broaches the unthinkable but it also exposes the way of the world versus the way of Christ. Forgiveness doesn’t lessen or diminish the horror of sin; forgiveness forgives the person and not the action.
In our portion of the battle between the way of the world and the way of Christ, one preliminary point must be made. Because it is a battle and it is one we entered into at our Baptism, it is my duty as a priest to help you become aware of this battle. In doing so I may have offended you. You may have felt, whether in the past or still to come, that my words dragged you out and exposed you to shame. I apologize. I apologize for my ineffectiveness and my inexperience. I apologize for my lack of sensitivity and my lack of love. Though my intention is not always pure, it is my intention to shine light on your sins- and my own- for the sake of their forgiveness in Christ. Furthermore, if I have ever offended you outside of Church- whether through rudeness, inattentiveness, or other slights, I apologize for that as well.
Today’s famous Gospel passage clarifies this basic tension between the ways of the world and the ways of Christ. The way of the world is to accuse, isolate, and condemn. The woman—caught in the act—is dragged, berated, and belittled by the mob. Furthermore, she is a tool of their effort to isolate Jesus and separate Him from those who follow Him.
We see many of these same tactics today in news media and political efforts. There is actually a political guide called “Rules for Radicals,” that bears a dedication to Lucifer as the first and most effective radical. This thinking is imbued in conservative and liberal minded individuals who seek to win the day through accusation and isolation. If we can shun this opponent, drag them down in the polls we will win.
Opposed to the way of the world is the way of Christ. The way of Christ forgives, invites, and obeys the truth. When the woman comes before Christ, He does not deny the truth to win the crowd but rather He invites the crowd to the truth of their own sin. He invites the crowd to consider the woman as little different than they are: human sinners in need of forgiveness.
The way of Christ acknowledges her sin. This acknowledgement is not the same as the condemning way of the world. Condemnation says: “You are an adulterer and you will never change or be of any value.” Christ, who is truth in the flesh, says: “You are an adulterer, I forgive you and I call you forth to live a life transformed that will speak goodness to the world.” This transformation is the hallmark of the way of Christ.
How do we enter more deeply into this conversion to the life of Christ? Confession is always the best way, but how do we get more out of our own confession? Make sure that we forgive others- the measure with which you measure out will be the measure given back to you. Old injuries and new hurts all have to be forgiven if we are to grow into the way of Christ.