1) Opening prayer
Just and merciful God,
you take pity even on sinners
and you continue with them
a dialogue of grace and hope.Help us too never to condemn,
never to give up on people,
but to be patient, understanding and forgiving,
together with you and Jesus your Son
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 8, 1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in the middle they said to Jesus, 'Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you got to say?'
They asked him this as a test, looking for an accusation to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he straightened up and said, 'Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her.' Then he bent down and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until the last one had gone and Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained in the middle. Jesus again straightened up and said, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she replied. 'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus. 'Go away, and from this moment sin no more.'
• In today’s Gospel, we will meditate on the encounter of Jesus with the woman whom was going to be stoned. Because of his preaching and his way of acting Jesus disturbs and troubles the religious authority. Because of this, they tried, by all possible means, to accuse him and to get rid of him. Thus, they bring before him a woman, caught committing adultery. Under the appearance of fidelity to the Law, they use the woman in order to have an argument against Jesus. Today also, under the appearance of fidelity to the Laws of the Church, many persons are marginalized. Divorcés/divorcées, prostitutes, sick with AIDS, single mothers, homosexuals, etc. Let us see how Jesus reacts:
• John 8, 1-2: Jesus and the people. After the discussion on the origin of the Messiah, described at the end of chapter 7 (Jn 7, 37-52), “They all went home” (Jn 7, 53). Jesus did not have a house in Jerusalem. This is the reason why he went to the Mount of Olives. There was a garden there, where he usually spent the night in prayer (Jn 18, 1). The following day, before dawn, before the rising of the sun, Jesus was again in the Temple. People came very close to him to be able to listen to him. They sat on the ground, around Jesus and he taught them. What did Jesus teach? It must have been very beautiful because people went there before sun rise in order to listen to him!
• John 8, 3-6ª: The Scribes prepare the ambush. Unexpectedly, the Scribes and Pharisees arrive, with a woman caught committing adultery. They make her stand in the middle. According to the law, the woman would have to be stoned (Lv 20, 20; Dt 22, 22.24). They ask: “What is your opinion, what do you got to say?” It was a trap. If Jesus would have said: “Apply the Law”, they would have said: “He is not as good as he seems, because he has said to kill the poor woman!” If he had said: “Do not kill her”, they would have said: “He is not as good as he seems, because he does not even observe the law!” Under appearances of fidelity to God, they manipulate the law using the person of the woman in order to be able to accuse Jesus.
• John 8, 6b-8: Reaction of Jesus: he writes on the ground. It seemed to be a dead alley without an outing. But Jesus is not frightened, nor does he get nervous. Rather, all the contrary. Calmly, as dominating the situation, he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. His enemies are those who get nervous. They insist and they want Jesus to give his opinion. Then Jesus rises and says: “Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her!” Then bending down again he continued to write on the ground. Jesus does not discuss the law. But he changes the objective of the judgment. Instead of allowing them to place the law above the woman to condemn her, he asks them to examine themselves in the light of what the law demands from them. The symbolical action of writing on the ground clarifies everything. The word of the Law of God has its own consistency. A word written on the ground has no consistency. The rain and the wind carry it away. The forgiveness of God takes away sin identified and denounced by the law.
• John 8, 9-11: Jesus and the woman. The gesture and response of Jesus make his enemies go away, they are conquered. The Pharisees and the Scribes go away full of shame, one after the other, beginning with the eldest. The contrary of what they expected takes place. The person condemned by the law was not the woman, but rather they who believed to be faithful to the law. At the end, Jesus remains alone with the woman who stood in the middle. Jesus straightened up and said: “Woman, where are they who condemned you? Has no one condemned you?!” She replied: “No one, Sir!” And Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you! Go away, and from this moment sin no more!”
• Jesus does not allow anyone to use the Law of God to condemn the brother or the sister when the person who condemns is himself/herself a sinner. This episode, better than any other teaching, reveals that Jesus is the light which makes truth shine. He opens up what exists in the secret of persons, in the intimate depth of each one of us. In the light of his word, those who seemed to be the defenders of the law reveal themselves being full of sin and they themselves recognize it, and they leave, beginning by the eldest. And the woman considered to be guilty and deserving of death, remains standing up before God, absolved, redeemed and with her dignity recovered (cf. Jn 3, 19-21).
4) Personal questions
• Try to put yourself in the woman’s place: Which were her feelings at that moment?
• Which are the steps which our community can and should take to accept those excluded?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name. (Ps 51,1-3)