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.”
Reflection: This reading reminds me of a joke. The Scribes and Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus because she was caught in the act of Adultery. They asked Jesus what they should do with her because the Law of Moses was that she should be stoned. Jesus replied, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Just as he looked up, he saw this object coming towards him, so he ducked! It was a stone! In curiosity, he looked up to see who threw it. And when he realized who threw it, he said “MOM, I ASKED YOU NOT TO FOLLOW ME”!
We are all guilty of sinning and we are all guilty of judgment. Life is like a constant game of mirrors: we project our frustrations onto others, we condemn them for things we don’t dare see in ourselves, yet we care for others when they display our most fragile features.
The adulteress woman thrown into the center becomes a projection of all the men that surround her. In her they see all of their inability to be faithful to the Law. They project onto her their frustration, their inability to persevere. This woman’s adultery is their own potential adultery or any other sin to God.
This story tells us about people who came to Jesus with different mindsets. The Pharisees and scribes were sure they were right, and the woman knew that she had done wrong. The effecting of meeting Jesus and letting Him into their lives changes them powerfully. The Pharisees and scribes, through the words of Jesus were able to see that they too were sinners, like the woman they were accusing, and they were not perfect. The woman, expecting to be punished for her error, received a lovely acceptance from Jesus which must have left a lasting impression on her.
After the Scribes and Pharisees have left, Jesus can take up his role again as the authentic judge of the woman before him. He is the only true judge, he who, being without sin, is the only one that could condemn her. But Jesus stands up for her also: He that stands before her has already risen, he is the one that rises above death, it is he that has erased our sentence by defeating death.
This story often invites people to stack criticism on the Pharisees; we can become critical, judgmental, and superior just as we notice these traits in the Pharisees. ‘Don’t look out’, Jesus says, ‘look in’. I look into my heart and become aware of my own need for forgiveness.
Jesus allows the woman to see a new freedom. Not only is she saved from stoning but he asks her to move on. “Do not sin again” – don’t give into any false image that limits or diminishes you.
Action of the Day: As you start your day, pray to God and ask him to manage your weakness in being critical, negative or judgmental.