Early in the morning he 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 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?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
“But mercy is above the sceptered sway…It is enthroned in the heart of kings. It is an attribute of God himself” (Merchant of Venice (IV.1.191-193)
The gospel relates the story of an adulterous woman brought before the Pharisees who are ready to condemn her to death – for such is the law. It is here that Jesus intervenes with his response of empathy and mercy…”Let one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.
Surely all of us can see ourselves in the role of the woman who has sinned. Much like the woman in the gospel, we hope that “mercy seasons justice” when we examine our failings, immorality, mistakes, and sin. Yet, how often do we play the role of the Pharisees? Do we judge and condemn others who don’t live up to our expectations? Do we carry grudges that inform and support our mistaken sense of pride? Do we throw metaphorical stones at those who are different than us?
Jesus understands our actions and bids us to stop – it’s actually that simple.
—Ryan Bergin serves as Associate Director of Development at St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago IL.
Holy God, light in darkness, hope for sinful hearts, forgive my sins. Heal my heart. When I fear that you will walk away because of my many sins, give me the strength you gave to the woman we meet today. Hold me in the arms of your forgiveness. Help me change my life. Amen.