The Gospel according to John (8:1-11)
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, as I pray my way through this Lenten season, please give me the grace to live my resolutions well, and help me, as I reflect on these words, to draw light and inspiration from them for my day.
Encountering Christ: This Gospel parable reminds me of an old joke: So, when Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone”. All of a sudden, a stone went right by Jesus’ head. It was so close he had to react quickly. He looked at the crowd and as the crowd parted, he saw who it was; it was the Holy Mother!
We sometimes, or more times than we should, tend to pass judgement and condemn someone. We judge someone for what we see on the outside, but we may not know the whole story. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a story on the news. It was about a man who was caught stealing food by the store owner. After the individual put all the items on the counter the owner asked him why he was stealing them. The man started to cry and said that he was stealing food for his family who are very hungry. The store owner shifted his thoughts (judgement) about he is a thief and sent him home with food for the whole family. It is common for the media to present us with the most sensational sins of others. We are constantly being tempted to be outraged at what this or that person has done. We easily shake our heads, condemn them, and treat them as if they were dirt. In fact, it seems that many people today see it as their duty to act as the “watchdogs” against every sin they can dig up on others. Why?!
In this Gospel, the adulterous woman was about to be stoned for her sin, but Jesus put a stop to the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and, with a warning to sin no more, sent the woman off to begin a new journey. He perfectly exemplified authority, compassion, and mercy. We are called to imitate him in our dealings with others. Humiliation over one’s sins is a powerful experience that has the potential to bring forth true repentance. When we encounter someone, who has sinned in a manifest way and is humiliated over their sin, we must treat them with compassion. Why? Because the dignity of the person always supersedes their sin. I am sure we have forgiven someone that we loved for something they have done wrong, right?
Every person is made in the image and likeness of God, and every person deserves our compassion. But when one experiences sorrow and, in this case, the added experience of humiliation, then they are ready for compassion. By stating “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus is not justifying her sin. Rather, He’s making it clear that no one holds the right of criticism and judgement. No one!
Christ looked at this woman with infinite love and tenderness. He looked into her heart and forgave her. He returned this woman’s freedom and dignity to her with the invitation to sin no more. He does the same for us with each reception of the sacrament of reconciliation. How blessed we are to have access to the transformative power of the sacraments.
Closing Prayer: Lord, I see that you are willing to forgive much, and I too want that same forgiveness. Forgive me my trespasses and help me to forgive those who trespass against me with the same compassion and mercy you exemplified in this Gospel.
Action of the Day: How about today? When you hear about the apparent sins of others, do you find yourself to be condemning of them? Or do you hope that mercy is shown to them? I will make an effort to forgive a person against whom I hold a grudge.