Once again, we have in this Sunday’s gospel another image of the face of mercy. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Jesus has gathered people around himself and is teaching them. His teaching is having a deep and positive impression on people, and the scribes and Pharisees feel threatened and are jealous of Jesus popularity.
As a teacher, Jesus is not changing the words of the written law; to do this would be an evil punishable by death. What he does is draw out of the “words” of the law a deeper understanding of the full truth of God’s revelation. In the case of this gospel’s text, it is written that the evil of adultery must be purged from their midst by killing the sinner. But can the “finger of God” compose an intervention that offers another solution, a higher solution - repentance and forgiveness?
Deuteronomy 22:22 ..If a man is discovered lying with a woman who is married to another, they both shall die, the man who was lying with the woman as well as the woman. Thus shall you purge the evil from Israel. If there is a young woman, a virgin who is betrothed, and a man comes upon her in the city and lies with her, you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the young woman because she did not cry out though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.
The scribes and Pharisees believe they have a foolproof plan to discredit Jesus in the eyes of his listeners. They bring forward witnesses to the very act of adultery and the woman involved. No mention of the man is given, (perhaps he fled or something else more contrived). They drag her out and stand her right in front of Jesus, for all to see. What will become of Jesus’ message of compassion now?
At first Jesus says nothing but stoops down and writes with his finger in the dust of the ground. We are not told what he is writing, but it has intrigued readers ever since and many theories have been speculated.
Jesus does not respond, so they press him for an answer. It is at this point that an extraordinary thing happens.
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
One by one the accusers walk away, silenced. What just happened to them? The text only gives us the words of Jesus reply, nothing more. But something happened on a deep and hidden level. Their consciences were pierced, cut opened and convicted by the sword of Jesus voice. They hear the voice of God who knows each one’s heart. None of them is innocent before God. Now they know that only God, free of sin, can condemn.
Now the woman stands alone before Jesus, and hears the voice of God incarnate, the VOICE of MERCY. Neither do I condemn you; I give you, not condemnation and death, but the opportunity of repentance. “Go, and from now on do not sin.”
SECOND READING (Philippians 3.8-14)
Brothers and sisters: I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.