You may go. But from now on, avoid this sin. John 8:10

The account of the woman caught in adultery has always fascinated me because it portrays Jesus as a writer. One Hollywood version shows Him fingering out the words, “thief,” “liar,” “murderer,” and so on, identifying her accusers. As a result, they slink off one by one. In my own version of the story—since Jesus had to write a second time before He got a reaction—I have wondered if the sheepish and ashamed exit of the woman’s accusers was due to the possibility that He might have written, “I love you—and I love her too.”  For some perverse reason, isn’t it sometimes harder to accept kindness from others than it is to receive their criticism?

Whether my interpretation of Jesus’ writing is on target or not, it is clear that He proved, when He freed the woman from those about to stone her, that people are more important than laws. I try to remember this when I am tempted to use rules as weapons to punish or judge others who fail to live up to my expectations. More, I find comfort in the realization that the One who reads my heart knows the daily struggles I go through to become less judgmental.

Jesus, help me to be as respectful of human freedom as you are!


Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB

Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.

Read all Sister Mary E.’s reflections.

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“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”
–Henri Nouwen