Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 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. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
We are reminded by today’s reading from John’s gospel that John, unlike the authors of the synoptic gospels, portrays Jesus in Jerusalem more than once. So here, a little more than a third of the way through John’s gospel, we see the scribes and Pharisees testing Jesus in the Temple to see if he agrees with them about how serious sin should be punished. It doesn’t occur to them that it takes two to commit the kind of adultery of which they accuse the woman whom they bring before Jesus for judgment. The man involved apparently escapes even being considered for punishment!
Every time I have read this gospel during the time of Pope Francis, I think about his “Who am I to judge?” comment about people with homosexual tendencies. It is as if the words of Jesus in this part of John were an inspiration to the Holy Father.
The challenging words from Jesus about who ought to throw the first stone stun the scribes and Pharisees. In response they just drift away from the scene, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus then has a personal conversation with her, and suggests that she repent of her sin, but he doesn’t mention punishment at all. In this, the only Lent of the Year of Mercy, are you and I ready to accept that kind of mercy from the Lord?
—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.
Life-giving God, change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us embrace the world you have given to us.
Just today may I help transform the darkness of its pain into the life and hope of Easter. Amen.