March 9 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
Readings: Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; Jn 8:1-11, or, from Cycle A, Ezek 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
"Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more." Jn 8:10
The scribes and the Pharisees had brought a woman to the temple area where Jesus was teaching. The woman, as John tells us twice, was caught in the act of adultery — unquestionably guilty. She was probably hastily covered, unkempt, and in fear for her life. She was made to stand in the middle, on display as a sinner.
These leaders interrupt Jesus to ask His view on a life-or-death matter: Should they apply the Mosaic law that requires this woman's death by stoning?
The leaders thought they had Jesus trapped. Humiliating the woman, they expected, would create sympathy for her among Jesus' listeners. If He chose to uphold the Mosaic law, He would appear cruel. This decision also would fly in the face of Roman law, which did not allow the Jews to put someone to death. Jesus could be accused as an enemy of the state.
If Jesus said not to stone her, He would be seen as soft on sin and not supportive of the Law of Moses. The public would renounce Him. What would Jesus choose — deny the Law or the Romans? Choose life or death? Show justice or mercy?
What the scribes and Pharisees didn't realize was that Jesus, as God the Son, was perfect and infinite in His justice and mercy. So, He adds a condition to the throwing of stones: sinlessness.
Who is on display as a sinner now? No wonder the woman's accusers left! Only Jesus was sinless, but He doesn't condemn the woman. Neither does He dismiss the adultery as meaningless. He calls it "sin." He forgives her sin and tells her not to sin any more.
Like the woman, we are all guilty of sin. But we can stand before God without sin if we are open to receive the gift of grace.
Thank You, Jesus, for having mercy on me, a sinner. Help me never to judge my neighbor, but to reflect Your mercy at all times. Amen.
Diary of St. Faustina