As all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.. Then Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then be bent down and wrote on the ground again… (Jn 8:1-11)
Like Socrates and the Buddha, Jesus taught by the spoken word. He left no books or treatises and all we know of his teaching is in translation. That might seem to put a great distance between him and us. In a sense it does. In his time he moved people by his words to the core of their being while we don’t even know the exact words he used.
But in another sense this silence of Jesus brings us dangerously close to him. The words we have are hints, pointing fingers. They communicate his ideas. But what engages the heart and develops the bond of love that becomes discipleship is a living presence - more than either a historical memory or a literary legacy that we have to deconstruct.
The words of the gospels are important and precious but even they pale by comparison with the spirit of his presence. How powerful this presence is can be glimpsed in this story of the woman caught in adultery (and the invisible man who got away with it). If it seems archaic we have only to remember the vindictive justice in which the Taliban deals out the same kind of punishment today.
We have all been caught in adultery at times. At least, the adultery that Jesus identified as residing in imagination and fantasy, not only specifically sexual but any form of escaping reality or responsibility. The ego, in a rage of shame or self-rejection, has often wanted to stone our weaker selves or, by projection, others to death.
It is not words that save us from this terrible fate but pure presence. This presence is not dispelled or exiled by even the worst we can do or think. Its words are written in the ground of our being, the dust of which we are all made. But what turns the anger aside and deflates it is the power of a true, gentle and undeflectable, undeniable love.Want to receive our Lent Daily Reflections in your mailbox? Subscribe HERE