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FLESH AND STONES – Luigi Santucci

The step from sexual pleasure to death can be extremely short.

For a Hebrew woman it was enough to be caught in the act of adultery.

The trial was very speedy (or didn’t take place at all!).

For that fault there was neither trial, reflection, nor “factual reconstruction”.

“Moses commanded that such people should be stoned to death!”

said the Scribes and Pharisees to Jesus,

“and we’ve no intention of disobeying Moses.”

And loiterers in Jerusalem – good womanisers and even, perhaps, voyeurs –

thought, but didn’t say

‘Whatever happens, we don’t want to miss such entertainment! Our moralistic stone is no more than revenge for not being the lover ourselves.’

Jesus knew all this, but so far he hadn’t opened his mouth.

He’d been asked for his opinion impatiently and repeatedly.

He’s bent down and written on the ground with his finger.

Not only the men clutching stones, but even the woman, became impatient.

Not that she nursed any false hopes –

she just wanted the inevitable business to be over and done with.

But Jesus remained deaf and distracted, and continued doodling on the ground.

“Very well” said Jesus at last. “Start”

Stoning to death? Of course.

But in a competition of this kind, over a matter of honour and justice,

it was only right that there should be an order of precedence,

a sort of rough etiquette:

“Whichever of you is without sin should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

They put down their stones quickly and carefully so as not to make a thump,

and they moved-off with grim resentment against the spoilsport.

The perfection of this heavenly diplomacy which had warded off a murder

almost amused him.

Those Pharisees and publicans who had sloped off

behind the columns of the Temple were a farce.

He was happy at being more-seductive in his smile at her,

and his “Go now, and don’t do it again”

more-persuasive than the lovers still awaiting her;

and more-seductive too in the insidious sweetness

of that new way of living he had presented to her.

Today’s Mass reading from the universal Eucharistic Lectionary is……

JOHN 8:1-11 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared.

‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

Grant me, Lord,

A simple heart,

Which never harbours sorrows;

A heart glorious in self-giving,

Tender in compassion;

A heart faithful and generous

Which will never forget any good

Or bear a grudge for any evil.

Make me a heart gentle and humble

Loving without asking any return,

Large-hearted and undauntable,

Which no ingratitude can sour

And no indifference can weary;

A heart penetrated by the love of Jesus

Whose desire will only be

Satisfied in the things of heaven.

Grant me, Lord,

The mind and heart of your Son. Amen.

George Appleton

Holy Spirit, Spirit of the living God,

you breathe on all that is inadequate and fragile in us.

You make living water spring even from our hurts;

And, through you, the valley of fears becomes a place of wellsprings,

And your continual presence brings refreshment.

Breathe now in us with justice

on all that diminishes or destroys God's creation;

Breathe in us with peace to close the hostile distances

between peoples and nations;

Breathe in us with protection for those bruised

by grinding indifference or the cruelty of others;

Breathe now in us with healing for those who have fallen

into the clutches of this pandemic,

and inspire all engaged in the fight against it.

Breathe now in us with love for those who are full

of self loathing, who cannot love themselves or others.

Spirit of Jesus, come swiftly,

breathe in us, that in sharing your blessing

and your broken, risen life,

we may share your continual presence and reality.

© Jan Sutch Pickard, Praying for the Dawn.

Come, Generous Spirit. Come, Voice in the silence. Come, to our poverty. By the glory of your creation around us, By the wind of your Spirit in this place, By the power of your love within us, Inspire and renew us. The Grail.


Hear the sounds of city life.

Feel all the people surrounding Jesus.

You are there on the streets with Jesus.

You are listening to his teaching.

Imagine yourself there.

Some important men from the Temple

come pushing through the crowd.

They are dragging a woman by both arms.

They push her in front of Jesus.

She falls at Jesus' feet.

Listen to the gossip of the crowd.

"This woman," they say, "was caught in the act of adultery.

The law tells us that we should stone her.

What do you think, Jesus?"

There is a pause.

People near you pick up stones. They are eager.

Look for Jesus.

He is bent down drawing in the sand.

Everyone is waiting.

Be with the waiting.

The crowd is restless.

The woman is just there, alone.

Look at her.

Jesus finally stops playing with the sand.

He looks up but does not stand up.

He is ready to speak. You listen attentively.

Everybody quietens down.

"Let the one among you who has never sinned

throw the first stone."

He bends down again, drawing in the sand with his finger.

What do you think?

What do you feel as you watch him?

People around you toss their stones on the ground,

shrug their shoulders, walk away.

The “important” move away angrily.

Look at Jesus and the woman before him.

Jesus finally stands up.

He looks around.

He asks, "Where did everyone go—did no one condemn you?"

The woman answers, "No one, sir."

Jesus looks into her eyes.

"Neither do I condemn you. Go home."

Watch what happens.

How does the woman respond?

Jesus turns to you.

He tells you, "Look into your own life."

Do what Jesus says.

Examine your life. Where have you fallen short?

Where have you judged?

Tell Jesus. Listen to his reply.

Ask Jesus to enter your heart as you go into your day.

This Guided Meditation was originally published in “Encountering Jesus:

20 Guided Meditations on His Care and Compassion” by Patty McCulloch.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, O Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

St. Augustine

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