The first rock flew and made a hard thud in the sand. Dozens of light brown granules wisped a half circle. The sinner, an older man with a long gray beard walked away. Shortly after there was another hard thud. A second rock landed on the ground. A middle-aged man clenched his fists unsatisfied and pushed his way through the remaining crowd of sinners. The third rock was lightly tossed a short distance from the disheveled sinner who lay huddled at the feet of the teacher. After tossing, he looked around at those remaining to see if he had done right. No one met his glance. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away indifferent.
Thud. Thud! Thud. One by one the stones fell to the ground. The angry mob of self-righteousness dissipated. Sinfulness crept away unable to accuse another.
Silence. The sinner still huddled in fear gazes up at the teacher through the puddle of tears. He is drawing in the sand. The sinner sits up and looks around amazed. This man, Jesus, had silenced a rabid hoard with a question, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” He straightened up. Their eyes met and he held a calm look, “Where are they?” He looked around at the empty square. “Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” the sinner replied.
Then Jesus replied, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
The calm and serenity that appeared on his face now filled the sinner’s heart and soul. A burden had been lifted and a new found freedom entered the heart. Rising slowly there is one more glance of gratitude and love towards Jesus. He smiles again grateful to have reached the hardened heart of one soul that afternoon.
This story in the life of Christ takes us back to the second reading this Sunday to Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 3: 14). Jesus does not condemn, He forgives. He not only forgives, He calls us to not sin any more, to right ourselves with God, walk the narrow road. The sinner in this story experienced first hand the saving grace of confession and had been given new life, a clean slate to pursue God’s upward calling to eternal life. The relief and newness of that experience can be easily found today for our weary souls. In the church. In the confessional. A renewed spirit and hope for our pilgrimage here on earth.