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1. Being Taught by the Master


Learning from Jesus, our Master Teacher

In this session you are invited to a Master Class. You join with Jesus as he responds to religious leaders who test him on a point of law by bringing before him a woman accused of adultery. From within the midst of this highly volatile and potentially death-making encounter, Jesus reveals to us more of the way of the kingdom he is inaugurating, including the love and mercy of God, and how he is prepared to hold within his person the contradictions of the religious rulers and of the accused woman (and of the crowd) in order to open a life-giving space in which kingdom life—God’s love and shalom—can break through.  It is another opportunity to learn from his humble and gentle heart. 

If you have my book, Reflected Love, you might begin by reading and reflecting upon Chapter 9, “Seeing into the Life of Things.” This invites you opportunity to ponder on how Jesus opened this life-giving space in a most constricting context where death-making was high on the agenda.

I am sure that in your companioning and guiding work you have often been inspired and informed by watching Jesus, our Master Teacher. There is a concrete as well as an inspirational dimension to this invitation to this Master Class. It has to do with the vicarious solidarity and reconciling presence he establishes with pilgrims in the midst of the contradictions, estrangements and unfreedoms of their lives. This is also where we meet pilgrims.

 Looking deeper

 

We are encouraged to look deeper “into the life of things”: into the life which flows through Jesus’ responses in our gospel passage, where he refuses to judge or condemn any of the participants, but rather to liberate them, to reveal their value and beauty as human beings and as children of the Father, and to lead them to love.[1]

We are now ready to open the eyes of our hearts for the Spirit to make them quiet through the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, that we may see into the life of things; into the life and actions of our Master! We desire to encounter his life-giving love and mercy in a way that will redeem our deepest aspirations and resonate clearly with who we truly are. We come willing to surrender our private and self-constructed worlds in order that the way of Jesus, that is revealed in this gospel account, which seem so impossible to us, now becomes possible.  

My soul is becoming still

Now is the time to gently fold the wings of my mind,
before the left becomes haughty and the right, proud
in the belief that matters, too great and wonderful for me,
are within my grasp, to fully comprehend and master.
My mind settles within the roomier regions of my heart,
joining with wonderment, awe and receptivity for, somehow,

I know my life depends upon this kneeling liberator / redeemer;
every bit as much as the woman and her accused.
My soul is still and quietened now,

“like a weaned child is my soul within me,”[2]   
leaning into the Divine Embrace in openness and expectation;
waiting in anticipation for the kingdom of God to break through.

Prayer: God our Father, you reveal yourself in Jesus in the very midst of this passage. Send your Spirit to enliven and inspire my spirit and to guide me into deep intimacy with Jesus so I can be deeply formed in his way through this living Word that comes from you. Amen. 


Reflective Reading – John 8: 2 – 11, NRSV

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.

Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

Engaging with the passage

Come to this passage in prayerful attentiveness, guided by the Spirit and receiving this living Word in God’s presence. Begin by reading these words aloud. Do this three times; slowly and with reverence. Even though this passage may be well known to you, come to it afresh and in anticipation that God will reveal to you, through Jesus, something of God’s self. In this “newness” allow the words to again become familiar. Open your heart to allow these words to resonate deeply within you. Feel love for them and for what is being revealed.

Entering in!

Through previous sessions, and through your own prayerful reading of scripture, you have become use to indwelling gospel text and inhabiting the characters of gospel stories.

Bible text will speak to and enliven our imagination. Your active and believing imagination offers a significant doorway through which to enter further into this story. With the Spirit’s guidance, you can identify with:

  1. The chain of events that occur in this passage (Jesus teaching, the temple men bringing the accused woman, their desire to test Jesus, Jesus’ kneeling, Jesus’ responses to the men, the men leaving, and Jesus’ response to the woman). [It could be useful to stand in the shoes of a disciple to follow this chain of events]. 
  2. The characters (crowd, disciples, temple rulers, accused woman and Jesus).
  3. The inner movements (what is happening within the crowd, within the disciples, within the scribes and Pharisees, within the accused woman, and within Jesus). 

Spend around fifteen minutes bringing your active imagination into play. Allow approximately five minutes for each of the above.

What is drawing us?

What is the newness that is beginning to draw you? What is coming into the centre of your attention?

Allow what is drawing you to expand and grow a little. Use a page in your journal. It may come through a quick drawing, through some poetic jottings, or through working with a metaphor. Remain with your active and believing imagination!

Our human experience

By entering more fully into the text/story, you have observed the chain of events, identified with the main characters and connected with some of the inner movements. You can now prayerfully reflect on how you recognised each of the characters. What was it in your own experience (and you can do this by looking back over your life) that enabled you to identify so strongly with these characters? It will also be helpful to look at the experience of others who have touched your life.

Take either the character of one of the religious rulers or the character of the accused woman. What was it in my own experience that enabled me to identify and resonate deeply with this character? Make your responses in your journal.

It is when you make this personal link—the link through your experiences—you are able to discover the truth of this passage for yourself. The stance of the religious rulers, their accusations and testing, their being invited to look deeper within, their walking away, and the inner and outer responses of the accused woman, hopefully does not seem foreign or alien to you anymore.[3]


How do you respond to the following statements?

Yes

No

Still unsure

I have been able to identify with the temple
rulers and the accused woman.

 

 

 

I have found deep resonance with my own experience
and with the experience of a person
who touched my life.

 

 

 

The experience of the characters in this story is no longer foreign or alien to my own.

 

 

 

I have been able to discover for myself
more of the truth of this passage.

 

 

 

I can say to myself that this story is true to life;
yes, it really happened!

 

 

 


Drawing close to the person of Jesus

You have entered into this story through the doorway of your active and believing imagination and through your experience as you look back on your life. Now, the invitation is to draw closer to Jesus as he engages with people in this story. The invitation is to come heart-to-heart with Jesus in prayerful attentiveness.

You are familiar with the “companioning window” to look through at Jesus’ companioning—responding to—pilgrims in gospel stories. We have been looking at Jesus in a specific encounter and how he responds to the various characters, including the scribes and Pharisees and the accused woman. As you enter this story as one of the characters or an onlooker (maybe a disciple), what is Jesus revealing to you? As I now come heart-to-heart with Jesus, right in the midst of this gospel story, what am I being invited to learn from his gentle and humble heart?

Through the window of this gospel story Jesus is revealing to me . . .

 

 

To what extent are you being awakened to God’s redeeming, transforming and restoring actions in your life?

 

As I look back over my life through the window of this gospel story, I am being awakened to . . .

 

 

 

What is Jesus’ revealing to you, through this gospel story, about his restorative (kingdom enhancing) purposes?

In my prayerful reflections on this question, I was drawn to the incredible way in which Jesus held all of the contradictions of the religious rulers, of the accused woman and of my own. I began to imagine him kneeling and reaching out his arms to gather up the hostility, the fear, the addictiveness, the judging hearts, the resistance, the sinfulness, the great breach between love and power, and above all, the estrangement from his Father and our Heavenly Father.

Gradually that image faded. What emerged were the same outstretched arms, this time nailed to a cross. Along with the contradictions of our gospel story, and of course my own, Jesus takes on the powers of darkness and draws into himself the sins and sufferings of the entire world.

Somehow the light and life that broke through for the woman at the end of the story, and for me during my reflections, re-emerged. This time it was the resurrected Jesus. He had sacrificially held the contradictions until the light and the life of the kingdom of God broke right through.

Through this gospel account Jesus is revealing to me . . .

 

 

What is Jesus’ invitation to you, through this gospel story, for your formation of a guide and companion in his way?

As I engaged with this question, I first acknowledged how important it has been in my companioning not to judge, not to collude, not to take sides, but to stand firmly in the pathway of peace and hold the contradictions until deeper life and freeing truth broke through. I wrote about this in Reflected Love, pages 88- 89.  

Many pilgrims bring accusations against people who have wronged them into the companioning room, but in this story, Jesus shows us how not to collude, one party against another, but to stand firmly in the pathway of peace, even as we listen to and hold the criticisms, blame, projections, entanglements, and inner contradictions of the pilgrim. To avoid becoming parental, distantly professional or powerfully directive, we will need to embody the spacious and gracious capacity of Jesus as we accompany pilgrims inwards to engage the truth of their wounded pasts and self-protective resolves.

And yet, when continuing with my reflection on the previous question, more was revealed. It is to kneel with him as he embraces my contradictions and those of the pilgrim I am companioning. It is to make the journey with him and the pilgrim through death. It is to be raised to the new life of the kingdom. In the company of the Resurrected Christ, and through the power of the Spirit, new beginnings are possible.

It is the new beginning of the prodigal welcomed home by his father (“was dead, and he's alive! He was lost, and he's found!”)[4]  It is the new beginning for the woman as she is freed from her guilt and sin; freed for knowing she is a precious person who is called to love God, her husband, her children and her neighbours and to give life to others.[5] It is the new beginning which Amy spoke of in Session 10. It is a new beginning for me personally and in my companioning. It is a new beginning for pilgrims. In this new beginning there is freedom from desires for what will never satisfy, including the restlessness and dissatisfactions of desire itself, allowing freedom for cultivating the desire for God, the Eternal, in whom we will find rest for our souls. 

What is Jesus’ invitation for your formation as a guide and companion in his way?      

Jesus is inviting me to be formed in his way through revealing to me . . .

 

 

 

Spend some time in prayer inviting the Holy Spirit

to continue to form you as a guide and companion in the way of Jesus. 

Notes

 

 


[1] Jean Vanier. Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. Australia: Garratt, 2004, 143.
[2] Psalm 131: 2, NIV.
[3] Séamus O’Connell. The Way of Lectio: Concept and Presentation. Maynooth College, 2011,2.  http://www.maynoothcollege.ie/scripture/documents/Sunday32A.pdf  
[4] Luke 15: 32, The Message.
5] Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus, 145. 


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