Jesus’ life has been summed up in a very catchy clever phrase:-
HE COMFORTED THE DISTURBED AND DISTURBED THE COMFORTABLE. Today’s Gospel is a fine illustration of that.
The religious leaders of the time were very comfortable in their role as teachers of the law and interpreters as to how their followers should allow that law to govern their lives. They realised early on that this Jesus was in the business of challenging - disturbing - that cosy situation.
On at least two occasions they presented Him with circumstances, where they felt they had Him cornered – like handing Him grenades with the pins taken out – expecting the devices to explode in His hands. However – to continue the analogy- Jesus deftly replaced the pins and promptly lobbed the grenades back into their hands!
The first occasion was “IS IT LAWFUL TO PAY TAXES TO CAESAR?”
A “YES” or “NO” answer here would have landed Him in serious trouble either with the local Jews or with the Romans. However, in true Kerry style He answered their question by asking another- ”Whose head is on the coin?” Caesar’s… So… “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The grenade neatly landed back in their laps!
Today’s story is the second situation. “The law says this woman should be stoned to death…..what do you say?” They are certain they have Him this time. A “YES” or “NO” answer here would portray Him either as a person who had no regard for the law or one who had no regard for human life.
But He brilliantly boxed out of that corner with a reply that stunned them…”If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
But enough about THEM…what about US? How does this episode connect with our daily life?
There are three roles played in the story. Which do we imitate? Which should we imitate?
How often do we follow the self-righteous religious leaders and condemn out- of- hand those who fail to reach the heights of our moral standards? How often to we ourselves fail, while continuing to condemn others? Glasshouses and stones come to mind!
Jesus invited them to go ahead and stone the woman - on condition that the first stone be thrown by the one who had never failed. That cleared their minds and it should ours too.
We should feel much more at home with the woman’s plight. In our weakness and failures we seek understanding, acceptance and support. We hope we have a future after our falls.
All that and more is provided by Jesus to the woman and to us.
He acknowledged her fault but refused to condemn. He did suggest a change of life-style – echoed in the first reading “ No need to recall the past, no need to think about what has gone before”. His hope is that as a result of the hope He has given her, she will not repeat the past either.
In all that He restored her dignity as a human being and He also restored her to her place in society.
Everything He offered her, He offers to us.
Everything He offers us must be offered to others by us.