The Second Day of Lent
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 Jesus, “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 ground. 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 on the ground. When they heard it, 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?” 11 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
A woman is caught in the act of adultery and is used as a pawn in a religious test. The “Biblicists” (the scribes) and the Traditionalists (the Pharisees) wanted to get this popular Rabbi on the record. Did He believe in keeping the Law? Was He committed to the scriptures? Was He “biblical”? Was He for “law and order”? Was he a heretic or a hypocrite?
I believe that these inquisitors of Christ had no intention of stoning that woman. Rather they shamefully used her to find reason to declare Christ a dangerous radical. After Christ gave His answer … they simply walked away … caught in their own trap.
The point of justice in this display of shameful intrigue and exploitation only behalf of the religious leaders is in the words He spoke to the woman. “I do not condemn you, you are forgiven, and being forgiven you must change your ways, never to sin again.” And though she probably almost assuredly sinned in some manner in the days and years ahead … she now had learned the process of “Justice Christianus”.
“Justice Christianus” seeks to restore and provide a fresh start for the transgressor. It is a means to change one’s course through self-awareness of need and the cleansing power of Mercy. “Justice Christianus” is not about “law-and-punishment” but about “law-and-redirection”. It is penitential not for the purpose of punishment, it is penitential for the purpose of beginning anew.
The scribes and the Pharisees were correct in this statue of stoning adulterers, yet also incorrect. Where was the man? He too, by the Law, was to be stoned. But the keeping of that law of stoning adulteries was nowhere found in the just thinking of their accusations. No, the woman was of no matter to them. But to Christ … she truly mattered. He saw her as a woman who was in need of saving not stoning. They offered her no justice, not even in a punitive way. They instead treated her unjustly by their exploitation of her situation. But Christ … she was a woman who could use a fresh start in hope of a better life.
Even today we have our “Biblicists” and our “Traditionalists” who selectively choose their punitive statutes and put other Christians to the test. Do they believe in the Bible or not? Are they heretics? Are they not for “law-and-order”? My answer to them is Christ and His justice by way of a Mercy that bestows new Hope.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz