If you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you. Jesus could have said this to the scribes and Pharisees accusing the woman caught in adultery. Take the plank out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s. This quip would work for them as well. But instead he writes in the sand with his finger. The Church fathers say he is writing each of their sins. Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. The only one who could condemn her is the perfect Man, Jesus, but he forgives her. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But this forgiveness is purchased at the precious price of his blood. In respect for this sacrifice, the woman goes and sins no more.
In the garden Satan acts both as tempter and accuser. He seduces Adam and Eve into sin and then hurls their deeds back at them in the trial scene. But the accuser of our brethren has been brought down. Christ the Judge acts as pardoner. Saint Ambrose prayed, “I would fear to draw near to you as my judge, but I seek you out as my Savior.” We would perish in the fire of God’s justice, but he infuses us with grace. The law brings death, but the spirit gives life. We are not under the law but under grace. But unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter eternal life. If you hate your brother, you have murdered him in your heart. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
Mankind is under the universal call to holiness, purgatory, sanctification. At his baptism the Christian is told, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” The baptismal robe is the wedding garment. Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Such are the consequences of sullying the wedding garment. This imperative to become holy drives home the importance of confession: of patience, penance, prayer.
The woman caught in adultery is often identified with Mary Magdalene. She is the only one called “The Penitent” in the Church’s liturgy. Others receive the titles of “Apostle,” “Virgin,” “Confessor,” “Martyr,” “Bishop,” or “Doctor.” Mary Magdalene is the patroness of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, because she is the first to see Jesus after His Resurrection and to proclaim the good news. Tradition says she even tried to convert the emperor. She thought if she could only go to him, she could tell him what she saw. He mocked the Christians for worshiping a dead man. He called their religion as ridiculous as the egg sitting in front of Mary at the table turning red before his eyes. The egg turned red, and Mary held it up. From this tradition we derive Easter eggs.
Mary Magdalene is depicted in iconography not only with a red egg but also with an alabaster jar. Pope Saint Gregory the Great remarks that she puts the very things she used for prostitution to the service of Christ. The eyes she used to lure men become a fountain of tears. The hair she used for seduction becomes a rag for His feet. The lips she used to kiss her lovers now shower His holy feet with love. The oil she used to anoint her customers now prepares Him for His burial. She puts her gifts to the service of the body of Christ. Rather than using her body as a weapon for the enemy, Satan, she gives beauty back to God, beauty’s Self and beauty’s Giver.