We all need forgiveness
As is his custom, Jesus has spent the night alone with his beloved Father on the Mount of Olives. He starts the new day filled with the Spirit of God who sends him “to proclaim liberty to captives … and to let the oppressed go free.” Soon he sees himself surrounded by a crowd that comes to the temple court to listen to him.
Suddenly, a group of scribes and Pharisees intrudes, bringing “a woman caught in adultery.” They are not concerned about the woman’s terrible fate. They do not interrogate her about anything. She is already condemned. The accusers make it very clear: “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
It is a dramatic situation: the Pharisees are tense, the woman anguished, the people anxiously waiting. Surprisingly, Jesus keeps silent. He has before him a woman who is humiliated and condemned by everybody. She will soon be executed. Is this God’s last word about this daughter of his?
Jesus, who is seated, bends down and begins to scribble a few lines on the ground. He is surely looking for light. The accusers ask him to answer in the name of the Law. He will answer them from his experience of God’s mercy: that woman and her accusers, all of them are in need of God’s forgiveness.
The accusers are only thinking of the woman’s sin and of the Law’s condemnation. Jesus will change the perspective. He will put the accusers before their own sin. Before God, all have to recognize that they are sinners. Everyone needs forgiveness.
Since they keep insisting all the more, Jesus straightens up and says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Who are you to condemn this woman to death, forgetting your own sins and your need for God’s forgiveness and mercy?
The accusers “went away one by one.” Jesus points towards a life of togetherness in which the death penalty cannot be the last word about a human being. He will solemnly say later: “I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.”
Jesus’ dialogue with the woman sheds new light on his action. The accusers have left, but the woman has not moved. It seems she needs to hear a final world from Jesus. She does not feel freed yet. Jesus says to her: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
He offers her forgiveness, and he invites her at the same time not to sin any more. God’s forgiveness does not annul responsibility, but rather it demands repentance. Jesus knows that God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live.”
José Antonio Pagola
March 17, 2013
5 Lent (C)