We all know this story so well. Its early morning and the heat of the day has yet to arrive. Jesus comes into the temple area and people gather around to listen to what he has to say. An angry crowd of scribes and Pharisees intrude on Jesus’ gathering. They drag along a humiliated, frightened woman. She was caught committing adultery. They don’t have to remind Jesus, but they do, that the Law of Moses demands that such a woman should be stoned to death. I have no idea what the law says about a man caught in adultery. We’re quick to notice he is not on the scene. Maybe her husband took care of him by the famous crime of passion.
They throw this woman in front of Jesus and want to know what should be done. They say Jesus is always teaching love and forgiveness but what about upholding the law. They were the law and order boys of Jesus’ time. We see he won’t be trapped. He doodles on the ground as if to show he won’t play their game and finally says his famous words – words as true today and they were then – let him who is without sin throw the first stone. One by one they slink away and Jesus and the woman are alone.
My take on this is that Jesus looked into this woman’s life and saw she was married – not by choice – to a complete jerk. He may even have been an abusive husband. One day a smooth talking sandal salesman came to her door and for the first time in a long time she was treated as a person, as a woman and things went on from there.
His final words to her ‘neither do I condemn you, go your way and sin no more’ let us know that Jesus did not approve of what she did nor did he lessen the wrongness of what she did, but he understood why it happened. Jesus cautioned her, go your way and sin no more
We all know the saying about not judging another person ’til we’ve walked three day in his/her shoes. We really can’t know what is going on in a person’s life that makes them do the things they do or say the things they say. Too often we tend to pick up the stones of judgment of criticism; we are too quick with our censures and disapprovals of someone’s decisions or actions. Jesus tells us that our actions will be judged with the same degree of severity with which we judged the actions of others. He warns us ‘judge not lest you be judged.’ In a way Jesus is telling us ‘be very careful about how quick you are to pick up stones to throw at another, because you really don’t know the whole story or all the circumstances.
This short gospel speaks for itself. In our second reading Paul tells of his great desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we too come to know Christ and the transforming power of his compassion and forgiveness for each one of us. May we be blessed to have the same compassion and forgiveness for others as Christ has for us.