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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. In the wonderful Gospel story today of the woman accused of adultery, Jesus directs all the characters in the drama towards these three elements: facing our own imperfections, being free and striving to become better people.

The first task is to acknowledge our own imperfections and brokenness. For the mob who wanted to stone the woman that day, it was their blindness of their own faults that Jesus brilliantly exposed with those famous words ‘let the one who is without sin cast the first stone’. My friends how important it is to be humble! Humility starts with me. It is never losing sight of my own brokenness and imperfections and staying grounded in them. St Frances de Sales referred to his ‘beloved imperfections’ because they helped him to be humble, never to judge others and to know his need for God. It is when I lose sight of my own imperfections that I lose sight of reality and live in in fantasy, thinking I am someone I’m not. Humility makes me the same as everyone else. Humility is also concerned with what is right. Pride on the other hand, is concerned with who is right. This was the sin of the mob who wanted to stone the woman. In their eyes, they were right, she was wrong. Jesus turned the question around from who was right to what was right.

Being grounded in our imperfection sets us free. There is something wonderfully liberating that comes with honesty. We don’t need to pretend anymore, wear masks but just be ourselves. This is how God wants us to be – honest before him and to know the freedom that comes with that. From the Gospel story, everyone who surrounded the Lord that day went home free: the woman who was forgiven but also the men with the rocks which represent their desire to hurt others with their own self-righteousness but that also weighed them down. Pride weighs us down. Being humble brings with it the gift of freedom and lightness of spirit and soul.

Lastly, the Gospel story calls us to conversion and to strive to become better people, the people God wants us to become. For many of us, we want God’s mercy but deep down we want to stay the same. We are afraid to change and afraid what this might mean. But no one who experiences the mercy of God is ever left unchanged. We see that in the Gospel today. St Irenaeus once wrote that ‘God loves us as we are but so much that we are not left as we are’. We listen to the words of St Paul in the second reading: ‘I am still running…I strain ahead for what is still to come, I am racing for the finish’. To the woman who is forgiven Jesus tells her ‘go away and don’t sin any more’. These are words that call us to strive for holiness, to improve and embark on the adventure to become all who God created us to be.

To be humble, to be free and to strive to be better: three lessons from an inspiring Gospel where God’s mercy meets our humanity and changes everything.


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