One Sunday I announced the upcoming reconciliation and told the parish there would be a free gift afterward(1). The church was crowded on the day of Reconciliation. I don't know if they expected a pen or something, and I like to think it was my words that enticed the community to come but in any case they did crowd in. Father was happy.
The Gospel reading yesterday was from the book of John Chapter 8, Verse 1 through 11. I must say this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible for the Grace of Forgiveness. St John shows us the the worst of sinners, (adultery was considered by the Jews to be one of the worst sins a person could do, requiring stoning) yet even at the verge of her death Christ showed forgiveness and charity...
...AND Jesus went unto mount Olivet. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou? And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more. John 8:1-11 Douay -Rheims
I think some of the most pointed parts of this passage is that the woman was guilty. She was caught in the act. In accordance with the Law of Moses she could have been, should have been, stoned. Jesus never remarked on her guilt or innocence, he challenged the Pharisees, and asked which of them was without sin. This embarrassed them. As they left one by one he turns to the woman and asks her where are her accusers? He then tells her that he will not condemn her. He never asks if she is guilty, because being caught in the act she has condemned herself. The last thing he says is, "Go and sin no more..."
In the same way we are guilty of sin. At the last judgement it will be we who will condemn ourselves. At the sacrament of Penance we are absolved, and we are told go and sin no more. This is the mercy of God shown to us through his son Christ.
Dieu le Roy!