THE STORY OF THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN
(A biblical reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent [Year C] – 3 March 2022)
Gospel Reading: John 8:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalms: Psalm 126:1-6; Second Reading: Philippians 3:8-14
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again to the temple; all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. As they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:1-11 RSV)
What shame and terror must have gripped the adulterous woman as the mob dragged her to face Jesus. But then, O, the joy and relief when she encountered His tender compassion! How wonderful she must have felt to discover forgiveness where none was expected – the unbelievable wave of happiness that washed over her when Jesus pardoned her.
The mercy of God is powerful enough to transform any sinner into a saint. To the exiled Jews in Babylon, who believed themselves to be distant from God, the Lord commanded, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old” (Isaiah 43:18). God was about to do a new thing. In Jesus, He fulfilled that promise when He poured out His blood to cleanse us from all sin. To the adulterous woman – and to each and every one of us – Jesus declares, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11).
How hard we can sometimes find it to accept God’s forgiveness! Our self-image gets in the way and we even condemn ourselves because we feel we ought to be acting better by now! But we can change only because of the grace and power of Christ active within us, not because we have tried harder on our own. Such merit-based thinking leads to a downward spiral and can even prevent us from participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This was not Paul’s way! “… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on …” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul’s proud self-image was completely undone when he realized that, in the name of righteousness he had been fighting God Himself (Acts 9:4-5). Only the forgiveness he discovered in Christ had the power to heal him. This is how God deals with all His people. Let us accept the reality of God’s mercy and find the power to overcome any fear or guilt.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I marvel that You love me so much that You will forgive every sin, no matter how great, if I only ask. I pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reign with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 3 March 2022
A Christian Pilgrim