On the Pardon of the Adulteress.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Pardon of the Adulteress.
Behold the miserable, sinful woman as she stands before our Lord. On the one hand she is overwhelmed with fear, contrition and shame on account of her sin; on the other she trembles in suspense as to the nature of the verdict her Judge will pronounce. It may be a sentence of death, yet the words our Lord spoke allow her to entertain the hope that she may possibly be pardoned. Endeavor to enter into the feelings of this woman whilst you meditate on the subject.
1st. “And again stooping down, He wrote on the ground” (St. John viii. 8), the Evangelist tells us. “After the Lord,” we quote St. Augustine’s words, “had with infinite gravity and majesty discharged the arrow of justice that went to the heart of the audacious accusers, He averted His eyes from His discomfited adversaries, and most considerately left them time to retire quietly from the scene of their defeat.” In this we see, my soul, the greatness, the holiness of the Redeemer. The interests of justice are His only concern. After He has satisfied the demands of justice by the sentence He pronounces, He pays no more heed to the delinquents; He does not take pleasure in noting their confusion, He does not make it difficult for them to withdraw; on the contrary He facilitates it, and spares them to the utmost. Learn of Him what ought to be your conduct when charity or justice compels you to censure, to reprimand, to punish. When this duty has been fulfilled, then let the erring Brother and Sister no longer feel the weight of disgrace; do not remind them of their fault, do not render penance difficult and bitter to them, but spare them, show kind consideration for them, as Jesus did to the Pharisees. Act thus, and you will thereby win the heart of the sinner, you will convince him that a sense of duty, not personal motives urged you to administer that rebuke and chastisement. Has such been your conduct?
2d. “Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst.” (v. 9.) In commenting on this passage St. Augustine beautifully remarks: “Two remained behind, incarnate misery and incarnate mercy. The poor woman stood there terrified, expecting that she would receive her punishment at the hands of Him who was alone without sin. But He, who had driven away His opponents with the word of justice looks upon her with tender clemency.” Consider our Lord’s conduct, my soul, lay it well to heart; reflect upon St. Augustine’s saying: “Two remained behind, incarnate misery and incarnate mercy.” Truly there is no greater misery than sin, no greater mercy than that of our God. For when the world, when those who are supposed to be better than the ordinary run of mankind, take up stones to cast at the unhappy sinner, than whom they are in reality no less sinful, the transgressor in his misery meets with mercy from Him who alone possesses the right to punish him. But be it observed, the sinner must not fly from the presence of that merciful God, like the Jews, who went out one by one; on the contrary he must draw nigh to Him, acknowledging and confessing his guilt in a spirit of true contrition, and remain standing before Jesus as did the woman in the Gospel. For, as St. Ambrose teaches, shamefaced confession is most profitable to us, and by it the punishment due to us is mitigated. Why is it then, my soul, that you find it so difficult not indeed to sin as the woman did, but like her, to remain standing before Jesus or His representative upon earth, the Priest, the Superior, and openly and penitently confess your fault? Are you not too apt to prefer to slip away quietly like the Jews, in order to avoid this salutary humiliation? Say, will you who are a Priest, a Religious, from henceforth allow yourself to be surpassed in this respect by a woman taken in adultery?
3d. “Then Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go and now sin no more.” (v. 11.) How is this, Lord, St. Augustine exclaims, dost Thou favor the sinners? By no means. Listen to what follows: “Go and now sin no more.” Thus our Lord condemned the sin, not the sinner. He only enjoins, St. Cyril says, upon the woman whom He pardons, to abstain from sinning for the future, for relapse is much more dangerous than the first fall into sin, and brings one much nearer to the verge of perdition; a second fall will often prove fatal to the soul which the first fall has not irretrievably ruined. Meditate upon these two sayings of the great Fathers of the Church. Learn, in accordance with St. Augustine’s admonition, to condemn the sin, and save the sinner; to hate the crime and love the criminal; and in compliance with the teaching of St. Cyril and the words of our Lord Himself beware yourself of relapse into the sin which you censure in others. At the time when you most harshly and severely judge the sinner not the sin you are yourself in the greatest danger of falling into the very sin for which you blame him; and when through God’s mercy you are absolved from the sin which you observe in others, you have most reason of all, instead of condemning your neighbor, to be yourself on your guard, for perhaps in his case it is the first time of falling, whereas were you again to be guilty of the same it would be a relapse into sin, a fall of a far more perilous character.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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