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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Who can cast the first stone?

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Sunday 5 of Lent (First Sunday in Passiontide)

Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11

We are very good at condemnation. Generations of people have occupied 'street corner' positions, from which they would analyse the virtue of their neighbours' lives. In our modern age, 'gutter press' journalism has adopted the mantle of supreme moral authority. Nobody is safe from this scrutiny – from bishop to prince, footballer to pop-star. It is hard not to get drawn in by this. We all enjoy a good 'tut-tut', a disapproving shake of the head. People like these are to be scorned upon, and we feel it is our duty to do the scorning.

Our Lenten observance should teach us differently. In confronting our own weakness, we ought to feel compassion for others, and refrain from judging them. When we look closely at our own lives, we recognise that there is much for which we ourselves could be condemned. God has forgiven us our transgressions – who are we to condemn others?

Today's gospel contains a beautiful moment that encapsulates this. Jesus sees some men preparing to stone a prostitute. He is in no doubt concerning the gravity of her sin, but neither is he in doubt of the sinfulness of her condemners. In a phrase that has become a well-known saying, he invites 'the one who is without sin to cast the first stone'. None of them feels able to condemn the woman after this, and they retire from the scene. Jesus approaches her. None of the others have condemned her and he tells her that he will not condemn her either. He tells her to 'go, and sin no more'.

Two profound lessons are given in this passage. We are forgiven, despite the gravity of our transgressions. We shall never be deserted by God in all our sinfulness. But this imposes an obligation upon us. We must never see ourselves as worthy to condemn other people. When we see people in the shame of sin, we should not sit and gloat in our self-righteousness, ready to condemn. We should step aside and let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. We see in today's gospel the response of him whom we know to be the sinless one.

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