The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people,
"Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?"
-- John 4:28-29
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."
--John 8: 10-11
I don't spend a lot of time posting here about sexual ethics. For one thing, I'm a middle-aged husband and father of six. My single bachelor days are a long, long time behind me, so I'd feel a little silly going on about these things with bloggers who tend to be significantly younger than I am. How am I to know what kind of suffering people have gone through in their lives, and what kind of pain I can cause with a careless remark?
Maybe the fact that I helped out with the diapers for more than 12 straight years takes a little bit of racy gloss off the whole topic of sex. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I may have finally reached the age where it isn't on my mind all the time. Furthermore, as far as my own reading of the Gospel is concerned, I don't think it was an obsessive topic with Jesus either, in his parables or in terms of how he described what the Kingdom of God is like.
Nevertheless, after blogging for over a year, I have to make note of the fact that matters related to sexual ethics still generate a swirl of controversy around the Church, and on the blogs most definitely, so maybe I have to weigh in a little more than I have. I've tried to make this blog a little different from what can be commonly found out there. I've probably been pussy-footing around the topic of abortion too much in particular... Besides, more accurately, abortion is a human rights issue more than a sexual issue. As with homosexuality, I'm not looking for a debate, I'll just express a point of view. It isn't around legality, who you are allowed and not allowed to vote for, what the laws should be in a pluralistic society, etc... Just some thoughts about what it is and what I think Jesus would say.
The Didache is very old. It is one of the earliest Christian documents ever found, and even though it doesn't have canonical status, it can rightly be regarded as a sort of very early Christian catechism. It states quite clearly, in unmistakeable contra-point to the prevailing cultural norms to be found in the Greco-Roman world:
You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a newborn child"Everyone knows the Church's stand on this. On this particular point I am on board entirely. I will never budge on it. I am not lukewarm about it. Here is a personal view being offered, however, based not on encylicals, catechisms, the magisterium, natural law, or anything of that sort, although those must all be taken most seriously. We may not all have the right to read scripture and interpret it any way we like, but I think we all can discern and get a sense of whom Jesus is when we read and meditate on the Gospels. The acronym WWJD has become almost trite, elicits a few chuckles these days, and skirts the real issue of WDJD (What Did Jesus Do), but my WWJD take is this...
-- Didache 2:2
Jesus can forgive anything, no matter how many times, but it certainly doesn't mean that he can countenance anything. Jesus reached out to sinners in particular; they were in fact the ones who most needed him as he himself pointed out. The Jesus I read in the Gospels is one who would never turn away a repentant heart, but at the same time, he was a straight talker about what he saw as well. The Samaritan woman at the well, somewhat haughty by virtue of the fact that she was the holder of the water, believed that she was in control of the situation, but Jesus turned it around on her. She thought she held the water that he needed. No, he had the water she needed. He doesn't condemn, he doesn't scold, but he points out calmly and without equivocation that the man she is living in with is not her husband... In another incident, the woman caught in adultery is saved by Jesus with the utmost gentleness and compassion, and although he does not condemn her, he clearly instructs her not to sin again.
To my eyes, Jesus always says yes to life, abundant life for all, and to what is most human in us. He always stands with the vulnerable, the outsider, those who are a burden to others, the powerless, the defenseless, and the voiceless. The voiceless would most certainly include those whom God sees being knitted in their mother's wombs. Destruction, violence, and negative solutions to problems are never his way. In many cases, that way includes picking up a cross and following him. Sometimes it is a hard road he asks us to take in being life-affirming. Try as I might, I cannot imagine a scenario where a woman, no matter how hard pressed she might be by the circumstances, could approach Jesus on this and that his counsel to her would be, yes, terminating the pregnancy would be the acceptable way to go (bear in mind, I'm not talking about a common-sense situation like an ectopic pregnancy, where neither the woman nor the child could possibly survive). I just cannot imagine it.
I think that Jesus would hear with love, compassion, and complete understanding whatever the fear, desperation, subjugation or hardship around the situation might happen to be (btw, I have lots of weaknesses and may be hypocritical in some ways, but I'm no pretend plaster saint hypocrite who's never lived in the real world; I know what such fear can be), but to me, Jesus is always looking for us to stand firm in trust and faith, and not necessarily the easiest way out.
Look also at his own situation for a clue. His mother Mary, probably no more than 14 or 15 years old... Betrothed, yet pregnant. She had absolutely everything to lose. Everything to lose, perhaps even her own life, yet she trusted God completely and said yes. Conceived after being visited by angel? Who could believe such a story? Joseph kept quiet, but do you ever wonder how quiet it really was in a small town? Is it possible that Jesus grow up surrounded by rumor, whisperings, mutterings, and innuendo about his paternity? The fact that rumors later came up about "Pantera" the Roman soldier leads one to believe that this pregnancy may not have been a secret in Nazareth.
Fascinating and often quite unexpected the way God works... The very fact that God became incarnate through a young unwed mother in difficult straights should not be a sign that is lost upon us.