Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Early in the morning Jesus came again to the Temple. All the people came to Him and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 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. Now what do you say?” They said this to test Him, so that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the dust of the temple construction. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again He bent down and wrote in the dust. When they heard this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” – John 8:2-11
The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees used her as a pawn in setting a trap for this rabbi from Galilee to disregard what was written in Scripture. In Leviticus it clearly states that an adulteress is to be put to death. But Jesus did not condemn her to death, nor did the accusers when they were confronted with their own sinfulness. Had the Bible changed the centuries since the writing of Leviticus? No, it was still there, but it was the maturing of understanding of the faith that had taken place. The writer of Leviticus may have demanded the stoning of this woman … but instead, Jesus chose not to condemn, but rather to reveal, to forgive, and to command her to sin no more. I find this shift in the manner of dealing with sin is at the crux of the Christian distinctive of faith.
To reveal, to forgive, to command the forgiven to sin no more … this is system of justice in a new realm of grace.
Here is no cheap grace, no easy-to-come-by mercy, but a gracious mercy that is filled with the chance for a fresh start and a challenge to sin no more. We are not condemned so that we might keep repeating the same sin; but we are forgiven with the challenge and opportunity to sin no more. It is a rehabilitative justice rather than a punitive justice; it is a restorative justice rather than a vengeful justice; it is a justice that sifts the wheat from the weeds rather than a justice that burns the field.
“Go and sin no more”, the woman was tendered a most daunting challenge … “go and sin no more.” When we seek the forgiveness of the Lord … do we merely walk away feeling like we were excused? Or do we walk away … challenged.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz