March 30, 2020 – Monday 5th Week of Lent
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033020.cfm)
The Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who committed adultery. This whole affair of the scribes and Pharisees with Jesus was filled with malice and hatred directed both towards the woman and also to Jesus himself.
In their culture at that time, it was only the woman who can commit adultery. That is why; the man was not in the picture. This culture was influenced by their machismo and Patriarchal society. Women and children were considered properties of a man. Thus, it was only the woman who was brought in the middle of the people. She was brought there to shame her, and not to bring justice. She was also brought there in an attempt to kill her by stoning her to death. With the leadership of these influential Scribes and Pharisees, they condemned this woman and refused to give her the chance to live again and renew her life.
This must have been the reason why Jesus remained silent. Jesus must have been so sad seeing these people condemning a person, stripping away her dignity, labeling her as public and terrible sinner, giving her no chance to redeem herself.
Thus, they demanded punishment from Jesus who could also confirm such penalty according to the Law of Moses. Indeed, she had sinned and according to their law, she must be stoned. This was where their malice and hatred towards Jesus was also to be found. They were trying to find fault in Jesus so that they too can accuse him of blasphemy and then condemn Jesus to death.
However, the event was turned by Jesus in the way they did not expect it to be. When Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus redirected the condemning fingers of the Scribes and Pharisees towards themselves. By saying that, Jesus brought them to themselves, to look at their sinfulness.
It was very interesting then at how the people responded. They began to look at themselves and found that each of them was sinful and each of them was not worthy to carry out such punishment towards the woman. Why? Each of them realized that they were all guilty, all are sinners.
What was more interesting was the way St. John described to us the first initiative of the elders to leave first. The elders of that community left the gathering first because they realized that the length of their life also meant more sins committed.
This Gospel scenario invites us now to look closely at ourselves and to examine better our intentions, our thoughts and actions. We are invited to be more understanding of those who failed but not in the sense of condoning such failures and sins. Like the Lord, who tenderly looks at us, we are invited to be merciful rather than condemning.
This is what Jesus showed to the woman. Jesus said, “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The beauty of the Gospel lies here. God has delivered his judgment and showed His mercy. Jesus freed the woman and was commanded to sin no more and not to go back to her old sinful self. She had, surely, found her way to freedom and peace in Jesus.
Thus, unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus saw more in the person of that woman. The limited awareness and refusal of the Scribes and Pharisees to see more, prevented them to discover that there was always hope in every sinner, and that there was more in a person’s weakness and imperfection.
This calls us too to expand our vision in order to see more the person of our brothers and sisters. This means that we become welcoming to their stories, to their pains and experiences. Hence, this also means that we are called to stop our harsh judgments and condemnations, our hateful labels and “othering,” to stop our gossiping and image shaming that only destroy the dignity of our brother and sister.
I would like to invite you then, to let go of the stones from our hands and in return embrace a family member, or relative or a friend whom we know have sinned against us so that reconciliation will also begin in us.
And since physical embrace might be impossible for us these days because of the quarantine, then, do it spiritually. Embrace that person in your heart. Hopefully, as we will enter the Holy Week next week, then, our hearts will also be ready to celebrate the Easter joy of Christ. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR