When the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman who had been caught in adultery to Jesus, he invites the one among them without sin to throw the first stone. None can make that claim and so they all leave. Jesus asks the woman, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” When she replies that no one has, he says “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus gives the same instruction to the man he cured on the sabbath at the Sheep Gate.
Go and sin no more. Read literally, it seems like a pretty tall order. How I would love to carry out that order! But sometimes I feel like St. Paul when he talks in Romans about doing not what he wants but what he hates. (“For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”)
Notwithstanding the seeming impossibility of actually sinning no more, the feeling I had when I sat with the line in my prayer this morning was something akin to the feeling I have when I hear the priest utter the words of absolution during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It feels so good to hear those words, even though I know (and God knows) that I’ll fall again.
Go and sin no more. No a command for perfection, but an invitation to conversion and repentence. An invitation made in love and without condemnation. An invitation that remains open always.