Lent is a time of self-reflection and change. It’s a time for looking a little deeper into yourself, and weeding out what doesn’t need to be there. We all accumulate a lot of mistakes and wounds throughout each year, and there’s no better time than Lent to get rid of whatever is holding us back from holiness. It gives us the opportunity to spring clean our souls, the same way we air out our houses after a long winter.
Todays Gospel (John 8:1-11) reminded me of the importance of self-examination, and of how equally we need not concern ourselves with the spring-cleaning of another person’s soul:
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This parable is a great example of God’s mercy and forgiveness. But the human element of the story does not end where the Scripture passage does. For the woman in question, it would not have been as simple as skipping out the door cheerfully whistling a got-out-of-jail-free tune. I wonder how the woman felt when all the haters slunk out the back. She would have had to forgive them, and all those who shamed and humiliated her. But in the face of God’s total lack of condemnation, she might also have had to forgive herself for her past mistakes, as well as (potentially) struggle to live in a different way. Forgiveness can be such a painful process, yet the act of not forgiving usually brings a lot more suffering than it’s alternative. Fortunately, God forgives a lot quicker than we do.
In the Heaven Speaks To Those Who Struggle To Forgive booklet, Jesus says:
“How blessed I am that you take a moment to read these words. I am God. I am complete, and yet your simple act of reading My words gives Me glory. You are important to Me and you are important to My family, which includes all men of good will. Because I love you and because I need your help, I wish to give you the opportunity to find greater peace in your heart. It is clear to Me that many suffer from hidden wounds. The only way for these wounds to heal is for the carrier of the wound to forgive the one who inflicted the injury. My dear child, this can be difficult. When a wound finds a home in the heart, it becomes comfortable there. It must be loosened and shifted. Both a willingness to forgive and a spirit of forgiveness are necessary because it is these things that make the wound uncomfortable. The wound then begins to dislodge. This reawakens the pain but only temporarily until the wound is removed altogether. I want to begin this process in you. If you proceed in the process of forgiveness with Me, you will find that forgiveness floods your heart. Your wounds will be gone. I have the power to heal every one of your wounds. When you try to do this alone, you do not experience success and you find that bitterness persists. Bitterness characterizes My enemy. Forgiveness characterizes Me. You, a beloved little child of God, seek to find peace in your heart. You will only find peace if you step into the stream of goodness. This stream is like a river of grace with which I desire to bathe you, removing all pain and injury. What will remain in your soul is joy. This joy, this heavenly peace, will be obtained by accepting your flaws and accepting the flaws of others. You see, My friend, if you accept the flaws and sins of others, you will soften in attitude toward yourself. I love you. I accept you. I need you to accept yourself so that you will be at peace in My Kingdom and it is through forgiving others that you will find acceptance of your own humanity.”
In order to grow closer to God, we need to remove any obstacles that keep us from Him, starting within our own selves. Bitterness and resentment don’t benefit anyone. A friend once remarked to me that holding on to bitterness and anger is like swallowing poison and expecting your enemy to die. So ask yourself, who are you angry with? Who do you need to forgive? What unspeakable hurt can you allow God to eradicate from your soul in order to find peace and progress this Lenten season? In the parable of the Stoning of the Woman, who would you be – and how will you carry it on?