Empty Seats in the School of Jesus

by | Apr 27, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

In a recent homily, Pope Francis warned us about “the empty seats in the school of Jesus:” Do any of these excerpts hit home?

The lessonof the woman caught in adultery

“Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple; all the people came to him” (Jn 8:2).

At the center is the people of God, who are looking for Jesus, the Master, in the courtyard of the temple …. In this passage, we can see the believers of every age, the holy people of God. … Yet, there are empty seats in that school of Jesus. Absent are the woman and her accusers.

Let us reflect on these “absentees”

The accusers

He continues…

In her accusers, we see a reflection of all those who pride themselves on being righteous, observers of God’s law, decent and respectable people. They disregard their own faults, yet they are very concerned about those of others.

In the eyes of the people, they appear to be experts in things of God, yet they fail to recognize Jesus; indeed, they view him as an enemy to be eliminated.

(They) remind us that at any time our individual and communal religiosity can conceal the worm of hypocrisy and the urge to point the finger at others.

It is good for us then, whenever we pray, but also whenever we participate in lovely religious services, to ask ourselves if we are truly attuned to the Lord.

We can ask him straightaway, “Jesus, here I am with you, but what is it that you want from me? What is in my heart, in my life, that you want me to change? How do you want me to regard others?”

The woman caught in adultery

Her situation seemed hopeless, but then a new and unexpected horizon opened up before her. She was insulted and awaiting merciless judgment and severe punishment.

Yet to her amazement, she finds herself acquitted by God, who points her to a future she did not at all anticipate: “Has no one condemned you?” – Jesus says to her – “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (vv. 10.11).

A major difference

What a difference there is between the Master and the woman’s accusers! They cited the Scriptures to condemn her; Jesus, the very Word of God, completely rehabilitates the woman, restoring her hope.

Forgiveness changed that woman’s life. Mercy and misery embraced. Mercy and misery met there, and the woman’s life changed. We can even speculate whether, after being forgiven by Jesus, she was able in turn to forgive others. Perhaps she even came to see her accusers no longer as harsh and wicked men, but as the means that led to her encounter with Jesus.

The Lord also wants us, his disciples, his Church, likewise forgiven by him, to become tireless witnesses of reconciliation. Witnesses of a God who always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.

Today, that woman, who found mercy amid her misery and who went away healed by Jesus’ forgiveness, invites us, as Church, to return to the school of the Gospel, to learn from the God of hope who never ceases to surprise us.

If we imitate him, we will not be inclined to focus on condemning sins, but on setting out with love in search of sinners.

He adds that then we will

  • be at peace with those already present but will go out in search of those absent.
  • not go back to pointing fingers, but will start listening.
  • not discard the despised, but view as first those whom others consider least.

Are we open to this lesson?

If any of his statements caught you, here is the link to the full text for context

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk