By BRENDA HOPF
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
As we walked the beach each morning on a recent vacation, I spent some time quietly reflecting on the vast beauty and serenity of my surroundings. I also spent part of my time taking pictures – trying to capture the biggest wave at its peak, the sunrise with the best color effects or that sneaky bird that tried to grab a fish from a fisherman’s bucket.
One morning, after taking a couple of photos, I thought it would be neat to do what I’ve seen many others do and write a message in the sand with the date of our vacation and take a picture.
After we returned home and I looked at all the photos I had taken, that simple photo of the writing in the sand kept grabbing my attention; and each time, my thoughts were drawn to the passage in John’s gospel in which Jesus bends over and begins to write on the ground. In search of why I was drawn to this passage, I read John 8:1-11.
This scripture passage is a pretty dramatic story that could have ended in bloodshed or even death. You can clearly see it unfolding in your mind with the back-and-forth exchange between the different characters. Jesus has just come from a night of prayer on the Mount of Olives. As He begins to teach, He is interrupted by some scribes and Pharisees who have brought a woman they caught in the act of adultery. They tell Jesus that according to the law she should be stoned and then they ask Jesus, “So, what do you say?” Jesus bends down and begins to write on the ground. They continue to question Jesus, so He stands up and says whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. He bends down again and writes on the ground a second time. They respond by leaving silently, one by one. Jesus, left alone with the woman, asks her “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She confirms that everyone has left. Jesus assures her that He too does not condemn her and then tells her to go and sin no more.
This dramatic story is bursting with some very obvious messages, but the overarching theme seems to be that of Jesus’ infinite mercy. We are reminded that we are all sinners; that we are not to judge others; and that when we receive Jesus’ mercy, we must repent of our sins. That is why I was puzzled that, as I read the story this time, I was especially drawn to the question the scribes and the Pharisees posed to Jesus, “So, what do you say?” As I kept pouring over this, I questioned – what is the message here? How could these words with evil overtones possibly be of help to me?
After I read the passage a couple more times, I discerned that, evil intentions or not, their question, “So, what do you say?” opened the door for Jesus to enter into their lives. I began to wonder – what if I did this each time I had a decision to make, found myself in a difficult situation, was tempted to judge someone, became angry with God, was filled with anxiety or found myself deeply depressed? What if, in those times, I reached out to Jesus and asked, “So, what do you say?” I would be reaching out to Jesus to have a conversation with Him, even if I might be angry or harboring evil in my heart.
Today, enter into a conversation with Jesus. Listen for His reply. Question Jesus further if you must. You and I will never know for sure, but I’d like to believe that Jesus changed – for the better – the lives of those scribes and Pharisees who walked away silently that day. There is no doubt He can do the same for you and for me.
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.