Is 43. 1-2 Psalm 126. 1-6 Phil 3. 8-14 John 8. 1-11
Today’s Gospel finds Jesus leaving the Mount of Olives early in the morning, to return to the temple area. “All the people” are attracted to him and his words and so he sat down and taught them. A very different group, the scribes and Pharisees, also approaches him, but for a different reason. Jesus’ very being is a threat to them and so they are focused on testing him so that they can bring a charge against him.
Unfortunately, their focus on entrapping Jesus, drives them to pull a woman who was “caught in the very act of committing adultery”, into the scene, making her stand in the middle of the gathering crowd. My whole being shudders as I look at this frightened woman, standing in their midst. The scribes and Pharisees don’t see a person before them, but rather an object that they can manipulate and which they can use to “get at Jesus.” I shudder.
In our times, this woman stretches my heart toward the millions of people, especially women and children and the poor who are used, abused, and treated like objects. This woman represents the people who are trafficked, victims of domestic violence, children who are slave laborers, and so many other slaveries in today’s world. Seeing her standing there in this scene, causes me to reflect on people who are suffering and/or ignored today, and to pay attention to the feelings that arise in my own heart.
Scripture scholars think that Jesus’ bending down and writing in the dust is his way of ignoring the officials’ attempt to trap him. He’s giving the crowd ample time to do some inward self-reflection and then gradually slither away, one by one.
I find another powerful image near the end of this scene. There remains only the woman and Jesus. Jesus had been sitting and teaching when the woman was brought there and told to stand in the middle of the gathering group. Now, she has been standing a very long time. Then, when everyone has left and there are only Jesus and the woman there, he straightens up and looks at the woman, eye to eye, truly sees her and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and…do not sin any more.”
Jesus, the Face of God, Jesus the Mercy of God, frees her.
In these last weeks of Lent, as we spend more intense time with Jesus, Mercy incarnate, may we be increasingly aware of our need for forgiveness and deeply grateful for the loving forgiveness God so freely pours out on us.
The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy. Psalm 126
-Sister Marian Baumler, SSMN
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