Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Gospel story about an encounter between Jesus and those accusing a woman of adultery, (John 8: 2 – 11) is not about the rights and wrongs of the woman’s behaviour.

The Pharisees use Moses and his law as their point of validation. So let us go to the law of Moses.

In the Book of Leviticus we read, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 20:10).

Did you spot the word ”both”?

I would hazard a guess that few persons who read that Gospel passage have bothered to look at the law of Moses. According to the Law of Moses, King David ought to have been put to death!

The Gospel is about finger-pointing.

I have said on many occasions when you point a finger at an individual you are, in fact, pointing three at yourself!

What we accuse others of is more often than not what we ourselves are guilty of, or have difficulty in accepting a part of who we are.

Have you ever given consideration to the possibility that the adulterer was one of the group who brought the woman to Jesus?

The following is a reflective poem written as a response to the Gospel passage. The author, Irene Zimmerman OSF. A School Sister of St. Joseph.

From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet
as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,
without looking up from his writing on the ground,
that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.

The woman stood where they’d shoved her,
her hair hanging loose over neck and face,
her hands still shielding her head
from the stones she awaited.

“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”

The heap of woman shuddered, unfolded.
She viewed the courtyard — empty now —
with wild, glazed eyes and turned back to him.
“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.

Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.

He thought of his own mother — had she known such fear? —
and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.
Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided
his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed
swelling up with seed not his own.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.
“Go your way and sin no more.”

Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,
empty, uncomprehending.
Then life rushed back.
She stood before him like a blossoming tree.

“Go in peace and sin no more,”
Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.

He had bought her at a price, he knew.

The stony hearts of her judges
would soon hurl their hatred at him.
His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.

– From Woman Un-Bent, Irene Zimmerman, St. Mary’s Press, Winona, MN. 1999

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