My God is a liberator
- Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”(Jn 8:1-11). Taken from today’s gospel for 5th Sunday of Lent.
- Today’s first reading from the second part of the prophetic book of Isaiah (chapter 43) presents God as one who liberates his people from bondage. It proclaims a second exodus which is a reference to the liberation from the Babylonian exile.
This liberation is accomplished by God not because the people repented from their sins but because of the holy name of God that they were profaning among the pagans. God in his goodness decided to forgive them with the hope that his forgiveness will provoke repentance in them. (cfEz36;16-36). In doing this God shows himself as a forgiving God and a liberator.
- The attribute of God as forgiver and liberator is further showcased in the gospel. The Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and asked him for his opinion about the law of Moses that ordered that such a person should be stoned to death. Of course they knew what the law says but they wanted to have some charges against Jesus as a law breaker.
Jesus ignored them but when they persisted he requested that the person without sin among them should be the first to cast a stone on the woman. In other words, the law must be executed but not by those who are also guilty of breaking the law. At this they all left, leaving the woman alone with the only person who has right to throw a stone since he alone is without sin. But Jesus did not cast a stone on her. He did not even condemn or reproach her. He merely encouraged her to stop sinning.
- In this encounter we see two ways of dealing with sinners: Pharisaic way and godly way. The Pharisaic way humiliates the sinner: they arrested the woman, brought her before Jesus, set her in the middle and demanded for her condemnation and death.
The godly way restores the sinner to his/her dignity: Jesus felt unconcerned about the accusation. When they pressed him to react he reacted in a way that convicted all of them and made the accused person to understand that her accusers are not better than her. In this way she regained her dignity.
- But in restoring the sinful woman to her lost dignity Jesus does not encourage her sin but rather provokes her to become better:” I do not condemn, go and sin no more.” Jesus abhors sin because it harms the sinner. But he sees the latent goodness in a sinner which must be encouraged. His gentle approach disarms the sinner and gives him/her no room for empty argument.
From today’s encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees you must have realized that a sinner has no right to condemn or punish other sinners. Like Jesus you must learn to show less interest in the sins of others. If you must comment on the failings of others do it in a way that your listeners easily realize that they too are sinners in need of God’s mercy.
If you must speak to a manifest sinner make him/her realize that you only want him/her to be better. That you are not guilty of a great sin does not mean that you are free from other sins. Learn to drop your stone and walk away to battle with your own faults. ©Vita, 03/03/22.