Throughout Lent, we’ll be posting weekly reflections taken from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) to assist us in preparing spiritually for Easter. These will be published in place of our weekly Dean’s message.
To ponder: There are often laws and rituals that we follow. In this case Jesus was willing to put the laws to one side, to consider the particular circumstances of the woman and to challenge others to reflect on their lives.
Pope Francis reflects: A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. 
Question: How can we be open to the circumstances of people that we meet and as Pope Francis suggests remain with people and share our stories?
To ponder: In the Gospel passage the woman discovers that she is loved and so she is able to respond. The Pope puts this invitation (to know we are loved) and our response at the heart of the mission of the Church.
Pope Francis reflects: Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”. 
Question: How can we attract others towards the “fragrance of the Gospel” whilst being faithful to the moral teachings of the Church?
To ponder: This women caught in adultery was seen by many as an “outsider”, but to God no one is excluded.
Pope Francis reflects: The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. 
Question: This challenges us to reflect on our pastoral practice: how can we live out what the Pope is suggesting? What are the “pastoral consequences”? Can we leave open the door of our Church?
To ponder: The way we picture the Church influences our thought and actions. Pope Francis invites us to consider a new model, which we find in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Pope Francis reflects: The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … and you have to start from the ground up. [America magazine – September 2013]
Question: What are the obvious wounds of those around us, what are the hidden wounds? How can we help to heal those wounds?