There is no greater fury that a crowd’s passions stoked by demagogues. For thousands of years, throngs of people have been riled up by some cause, some perceived injustice that erupts in unjust violence, that no one person would ever think of doing on their own. Remember as a child throwing stones and breaking a neighbor’s window. The inevitable consequence involved making an apology, offering to pay for the window and finding some other place to throw stones. When a mob picks up bricks and stones to hurl them at businesses, the owner is often helpless, unable to staunch the rage of the crowd and must flee to save their own lives and hope the mob does not torch his/her establishment. Violence for violence sake does not further any meaningful cause.
Mass actions can generate a certain sense of righteousness and unanimity among a crowd when in fact, their actions against another are misplaced and even wrong. In today’s Gospel some of the Pharisees bring a woman before Jesus to test him, accusing her of adultery which meant at least two of them were witnesses to the act. How was it possible they saw her? What voyeurism was at work? Inciting the crowd these Pharisees think they have a way to accuse Jesus more than accusing the woman.
He does not fear or quiver, but simply writes in thin rocky soil of Israel and says, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone? He does not heap more misery on the woman, and one by one the accusers walk away. One hopes they experience mercy first, let go of their stones, then let go of their hardened hearts as Jesus lets go of their accusation. He does not judge the woman, but invites her to “sin no more.” What we need less in life, is misery and we need more mercy from others. Vengeance has no play for those who claim Christ. As Pope Francis once said, “Who am I to judge?” Lord help us see your face in our brothers and sisters, especially those who are hurting, harmed, or abused.
Lenten Blessings – Father Larry