This morning I read a lovely column by Fr James Martin, SJ in America Magazine, entitled “When the Spirit Moves You. It talked of an eight-day silent retreat, an evening reconciliation service, and the poem below. I had heard of Irene Zimmerman, O.S.F. before, had read a couple of her poems and decided to find this one, “Woman Taken in Adultery.” I found the article quite moving and the poem worth sharing here.

John 8:2-11

From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet

as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,

without looking up from his writing on the ground,

that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.


The woman stood where they’d shoved her,

her hair hanging loose over neck and face,

her hands still shielding her head

from the stones she awaited.


“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”


The heap of woman shuddered, unfolded.

She viewed the courtyard — empty now —

with wild, glazed eyes and turned back to him.

“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.


Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.

He thought of his own mother — had she known such fear? —

and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.

Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided

his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed

swelling up with seed not his own.


“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.

“Go your way and sin no more.”


Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,

empty, uncomprehending.

Then life rushed back.

She stood before him like a blossoming tree.


“Go in peace and sin no more,”

Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.


He had bought her at a price, he knew.

The stony hearts of her judges

would soon hurl their hatred at him.

His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.

Incarnation, 84 


Art: The Adulterous Woman, found here