Today's Gospel is one of the most popular and one of the most often quoted passages in the entire Bible. We hear it in television shows and movies, see it in books and newspapers, and hear it from others. It is often quoted by those that feel persecuted and wrongly accused, as teenagers often do. Yet, how often do we follow it? It is all too true that we like to judge...
Teenagers are, in my opinion, all idealists, even if at least for a while. I think that we still carry the vestiges of childhood innocence in our hearts, and yet we have the rational mind of an adult that can interpret the world for what it is. A combination of these two, thus, in my opinion, leads teenagers to desire a world that is a utopia. The values that we are taught as children, whether they be honesty, diligence, piety, etc. are propped up on pedestals, and we expect the world around us, and especially the adults from which these ideals were learned, to live up to them. We expect the world to be a fair and just place, at least in our own little environment. Yet, it is never the case.
Let me elaborate on this. When speaking with my peers on faith and God, the sentiment that I often hear is this: “That if there was a God, why do so many bad things happen?”. There is an answer to this question, in fact, theology and philosophy provide many. However, I think that to the idealist teenager, these are not sufficient. They still want the perfect world of a child.
We look at the world and we expect perfection, but get disappointment.
-We see our parents talk about honesty, and yet we realize that they lie to us without a second thought.
-We see our priests speak about loving thy neighbor, and yet we realize that they will pass the hungry, sick, homeless person without even a glance of compassion. Furthermore, we hear them preach this, which sickens us even more.
-We see our teachers talk about hard work in school, yet we realize that those that cheat have better grades and more free time.
Often times, we see these things happen, and we get angry. We see the adults in our life as fallen hypocrites, and we question why we should listen to and obey them. I think that this is the source of what most people call teenage angst and rebellion: It is a drive to understand the “corrupt” world around us and our place in it.
Thus, I think, it should be no surprise why so many teens turn away from religion, why they become depressed, why they abuse alcohol and drugs. These are all, in general, natural conclusions for someone who cannot cope with the world.
-We lose faith in a God because how can there be a God if even those who devote their lives to him don't follow his teachings, when there is so much evil in the world?
-We get depressed because we realize how small we are, that, in essence, our opinion does not matter, that we really aren't that special, that the world will continue on its path even if we die.
-We try alcohol and drugs because it is what the adults do, it is what help them live in this world, and we too, want to live like them, to emulate them.
Teenagers are often known for being smart asses. We are often unsympathetic critics, of our parents, our government, our society. We are the ones that cast the first stone, even at ourselves. I often hear, and sometimes use the statement “I'm going to Hell” when talking about good works and personality. I hear this from some of the most generous, kind, and loving people that I have ever met, all of them teenagers. I often ask why do they say this, why do I say this? It is because, I think, we feel that we can't live up to the ideals that we hold. If our parents failed, if their parents failed, why are we supposed to be different? We too, have Original Sin, we too are flawed, we too, lie and act like hypocrites.
Personally, I describe myself as a cynic. Not because I think that there is no good in the world, in fact, I believe quite the opposite. It is because my life experience and travels to numerous countries have taught me that the world has to be worked with as is, and not through a far off notion of perfection. I do not claim that I am smarter than my peers, that I am somehow better. This is just my way of coping with the world, it is an acknowledgment that my vision will never be brought into fruition, and that, even if it were, it wouldn't be as good as it is in my thoughts. Believing that this world is only a temporary one helps too.
Sooner or later, however, we all learn to cope, to become adults. We bury our idealism deep within our hearts, or we trade it off for money, power, responsibility, etc. That seems to be the way of the world. Thus, when Jesus says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, I think he calls us to remember that idealism we held, and to remember that we aren't as holy as our adult minds would like us to think. As adults, we have stumbled too many times to criticize everything, like teenagers do, but we pick certain topics that irk us. We think that we are better than the________ because we are _________ . Those blanks are easy to fill, far too easy.
Perhaps if adults admit that they too, mess up, that they aren't perfect, then they will be less likely to cast that stone. This, in turn, helps teenagers see that imperfection is okay, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Then they too, would recognize that casting the first stone is not right, even if it is casting it at ourselves.