Woman, Go Now in Peace

Welcome to the first blog post from Mercy Conference and Retreat Center. It’s taken a while to find the right timing.  Some faith traditions might liken it to waiting for a most auspicious moment.

The readings for today in the Roman Catholic Lectionary for Year C have themes of new beginnings, new life, and moving forward.

  • (Isaiah 43):  Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
  • (Philippians 3):  Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

It feels like the Spirit is saying – now is an acceptable time!

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a song based upon the story of the woman caught in adultery that is our reading today in John 8.  I share the words with you now.

Woman, Go Now in Peace

Woman, where are they now
Has no one condemned you
Woman, go now in peace
For neither do I

I stand in a circle surrounded by faces I know
Neighbors, family, and friends deciding my fate
I see in their eyes the judgment for what I have done
I see in each hand a stone, the price I must pay

The one called Jesus enters the circle with me
Shame has lowered my eyes, but my heart hears him say
Let you who are without sin cast the first stone
One by one they all walk away [Refrain]

All the others have gone, only Jesus remains
In the grace of this moment, I know I am free
I see in his eyes a love for all that I am
I see in his eyes the hope for all I can be

Each one of us is given a similar choice
Hold on to judgment or let go to God’s grace
The moment is now; the stone is in hand
What choice will I make? [Refrain]

Reflecting on this story in the midst of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it resonates with the words of Pope Francis – “Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy….Jesus is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously.… The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (Misericordiae Vultus, No. 8).

Experiencing this love and compassion ourselves, which “gushes forth” from God, how can we do anything but offer it to those around us?  Jesus invited the men ready to cast stones to show compassion, but all they could do was walk away.  I believe that the woman who experienced the compassion and mercy of Jesus walked away to a new life.  I want to believe that she was also impelled to extend that mercy to whomever she might encounter; maybe even one of those who stood in self-righteous condemnation of her.

We, too, are called – to withhold judgment and condemnation, to offer love and compassion, to engage in the spiritual and corporal works of Mercy, to live out Mercy in our own unique life circumstances.

Jesus, the face of God’s mercy, stands before each one of us today.  What choice will I/you/we make?

Dawn Stringfield, Executive Director