IS 43: 16-21; Phil 3: 8-14; John 8: 1-11
Here is an old but funny story. The Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery before Jesus for judgment and Jesus said “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone at her.” There was a sudden silence. But then all at once a small stone came flying from the back of the crowd aimed at the head of the woman, and Jesus promptly caught it. Looking at the lady standing in the crowd Jesus said, “Mother! Really! I was trying to make a point, here.” The assumption is that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was immaculately conceived and hence sinless and so she was eligible to throw a stone. But if Jesus himself did not condemn the woman, why should his mother do so?
Today’s gospel describes Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman and how he deals with sinners. The scribes and the Pharisees, knowing Jesus’ compassion for sinners, put on him the responsibility of judging this adulterous woman caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus’ reaction to all this fuss is to start writing on the ground. But his questioners persist and Jesus tackles them skillfully. Jesus does not say that the woman is innocent, or argues that adultery should be taken of the book of the Law; but neither is he persuaded about the innocence of her accusers. He asks them to check their memories, their own track record on sin. If they are innocent then only they can throw stones on the woman. At least the accusers are honest in admitting their guilt and one by one, they slinked away till Jesus is left alone with the sinner woman. Then the woman heard the good news from Jesus. “Neither do I condemn you, go in peace and sin no more.”
Here we see Jesus full of compassion. He restored the woman again. He restored her in two ways. He restored her spiritually by forgiving her, telling her he did not condemn her, while also insisting that she not sin again, and he restored her to society by saving her life. The woman received forgiveness from Jesus and also received her life back again.
Notice Jesus’ last words to the woman, “go away and don’t sin anymore.” Although Jesus has forgiven her sin he expects her to live a life of grace and union with God from now on by not sinning any more. When we receive Jesus’ forgiveness he expects us to live as new people afterwards. That is precisely the attitude with which we are to come to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
What message can we take home today? 1} We need to become forgiving people, ready for reconciliation: Jesus has shown inexhaustible mercy and compassion to sinners by dying for our sins. But we are often self-righteous, like the Pharisees, and ready to spread scandal about others with a bit of spicy gossip. We are judgmental about the unmarried mother, the alcoholic, the drug addict and the shop-lifter, ignoring Jesus’ advice: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Let us learn to acknowledge our sins, ask God’s forgiveness every day and extend the same forgiveness to our erring brothers and sisters. We need to learn to hate the sin but love the sinners, showing them mercy, compassion, sympathy and acceptance, leading them to noble ways by our own exemplary lives.
2} We have no right to judge others: We have no right to judge others because we often commit the very faults we condemn, we are often partial and prejudiced in our judgment and we do not know the circumstances which have led someone to sin. Hence, let us leave the judgment to our merciful God who reads people’s hearts. We should show mercy and compassion to those who sin because we ourselves are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. The apostle Paul reminds us: “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” (1 Cor 11:31).
The world is starting to get to know Pope Francis, more by what he is doing than what he is saying; we are getting to know him as a humble, holy, servant leader—one who deeply loves Jesus and His Church, and is ready to lead the Church into a new and very important chapter in this present age. God bless Pope Francis.