This bas relief is of one of the men who seeks to stone the adulterous woman in the eighth chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus encounters the men, ready to throw stones at a woman caught in a sin and Jesus reminds them that they too are guilty of sins. It stops the action.
If we each look hard at this image, we will see ourselves. It is hard work but we can see ourselves. And it is so often the case in my life that when I am angry at someone – especially with righteous anger or righteous indignation – that I am angry at what I see in them which I also see in myself.
I think we want to be good. I think we want to be kind and loving, caring and forgiving, gentle and other-centered. But sin is such that our egos get in the way. We take what is not ours in big ways and small ways and that small sin leads to bigger ones.
I am slowly learning, as I age, that sins begin not so much in violent thoughts or indignant thoughts or lustful thoughts – but rather in unobserved thoughts. When my mind thinks things or does not take the time and trouble to think on the things which would benefit me, then sins begin to creep in and fluff the pillows of my mind’s living room.
Slowing life down so that I can notice my thoughts and my actions is the way to seed when small acts of selfishness, small thoughts of anger, small fantasies of taking what is not mine (even if it is something as small as too much of a conversation) is what I need to have the mindfulness to see because then, and only then, I can take myself back to THE WORK and ask myself – “Is it kind? Is it true? Does this improve on the silence or on the stillness?”
If the answer is no, then mindfulness has just stopped the snowball before it has even teetered on the edge of the hill – long before it begins to roll down, long before it becomes the avalanche which threatens small villages of goodness in the mountain hamlets of my life.