When I was a very young child, I saw a man beat a cat to death with a broomstick, an experience that is permanently etched in my memory. Whenever this gospel account is proclaimed, that horrific scene comes back to me. That’s what the adulterous woman was about to undergo, not with a broomstick, but with rocks and stones hurled by righteous, law-abiding men. Only the intervention of the compassionate Jesus saved her life, as we just heard again.
Jesus had said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” He demonstrated that passion frequently throughout his life and ministry. In the episode put before us today, we see the driving force that always motivated his actions.
I was deeply moved by Larry King’s interview about twenty years ago with the beautiful young widow of the deceased NBC TV journalist, David Bloom. She is the mother of their three daughters, and she spoke clearly of David’s Catholic faith and her own. She read one of his last emails from the Middle East to his children, in which he said that, though he missed them terribly and wished that he could always be with them, he was doing what he knew he had to do, especially, as he put it, for Mommy and for them and for Jesus. His funeral was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the sad marking of an untimely death and the celebration of a life lived consciously and deliberately in the company, and in imitation, of Jesus. In the mind of any Christian hearing that testimony, there could not have been the least doubt that David, who lived in the awareness of Jesus’ presence in his life in this world, now lives with him in the life that lies ahead.
In this connection, I must refer once more to the statement of faith made by the murderess, Carla Faye Tucker, who was executed in 1998 by the State of Texas. After committing an unspeakable crime, she spent more than a decade on death row, where she underwent a total conversion, helping many fellow prisoners to live good lives and to die good deaths. When she was asked, only days before her execution, what she thought would happen after the lethal injection had been administered, she said that she would fall asleep and that Jesus would take her gently by the hand and lead her to eternal life with him. I will never forget the angelic look on her stunningly beautiful face as she said that and the peaceful anticipation that she radiated.
What did the adulterous woman see in Jesus? How did her life proceed after this remarkable encounter? We don’t know, but we can easily guess.
It seems to me that the Gospel of Jesus teaches that happy life with him is not reserved completely for the future beyond our physical, biological death, but rather is something that we begin living here on earth in the midst of all our nagging troubles and our fleeting joys. We are invited and empowered to taste that transformed life even while we are still here. The eternal life we have been taught to look forward to after inevitable death has already begun. No, we don’t feel or experience it fully; we can’t while we are so immersed in this imperfect existence, where, as St. Paul says elsewhere, we see as through a veil or in a cloudy mirror. But it is real nonetheless; it is true. There is continuity from here to eternity. We are tasting it now. This earthly life will not be extinguished; it will be transformed to a whole new level of comprehension. We will see even as we are seen, the scriptures tell us.
And so, we move on with joyful expectation of what lies ahead both in this life and in the next!