Sunday Gospel Reflection, Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Woman Caught in Adultery (and the Pharisees caught in their own trap)
The Pharisees in today’s Gospel not only intend to stone the adulterous woman, they hope to “kill two birds with one stone.” Their hidden motive is to “find some charge to bring against Jesus.” Jesus responds by cleverly inviting them to examine their consciences.
During Lent, the Church invites us to examine our conscience thoroughly and make a good confession; to step out of the Pharisee’s shoes and step into those of the adulterous woman. Ironically, in this Gospel passage, the Pharisees learn that both shoes fit.
Pharisees will be Pharisees
What is the purpose of the Law, if not to keep people in order? Well, another often overlooked aspect of the Law is that it should teach. For instance, in this Gospel passage, the Pharisees bring to Jesus’s attention the penalty for a woman caught in adultery, namely, public stoning.
Christ takes advantage to show them the Law’s uncanny ability to teach simple lessons. One who is eager to apply the strict measures of the Law should also be prepared to have those measures applied to oneself: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. (And we all live in glass houses).
Once the Law is applied uniformly, as it is in today’s Gospel, the New Law is revealed — the heart of the law of forgiveness and mercy.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees do not stay around for this powerful message, and therefore, do not have the blessing of experiencing Christ’s mercy in the way that the adulterous woman does (yet they could have).
Because she remained humbly and stood alone in Christ’s presence, she received that blessing first hand. Anyone can have this gift. The forgiveness and mercy we all need and desire is freely given in the sacrament of confession.
By focusing on the evil other people do, we often blind ourselves to the good things they do. We forget that everyone, including ourselves, suffers hardship, and therefore that we all desperately need compassion and mercy. Pharisees miss out on the beauty of Christ’s teaching.
“Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy,” is meant for all of us.
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I have pondered the words bless, blessed, and blessing three words we myself included use a lot. So I decided I do not know the real meaning of them. So I got out the dictionaries and still cannot come up with an understanding for the way we us these words. Can you please help me make a clear meaning of these three words? If I have ask something that causes problems please delete this request? James
This is a great question, my friend, and I have no problem with it, except that to give a satisfactory answer, I would have to write a post. Actually, I think that would be a suitable post for this blog, so let me see if I can get to it within the next couple of days.
Thanks for your question!
Hello, Men of One Accord. I finally got around to answering your question here: https://biltrix.com/2013/04/26/whats-in-a-blessing-and-what-difference-does-it-make-when-people-sneeze/ . Sorry it took a little longer than a couple of days. I just thought that a proper response merited more length than what I would ordinarily type in the combox. Thanks for your comment and God bless!
Hello Biltrix. Thanks for sharing this powerful post. It speaks directly to the inner man. It reminds me that I should remove the plank out of my eyes before I point out the speck in another person’s eye.
I find the story of the adulterous woman very fascinating. I especially like how Jesus use a few words to shift the focus off the woman and onto her accusers…”He that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7).
Jesus was the master at reading the heart and shifting the focus. In this sense, I often think of the time when he told the Pharisees to show him a coin. You know the rest of the story: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. He had an uncanny knack for turning the tables on those who needed to see things from the other perspective.
I Love the message that we receive from this Gospel Passage…
However…and please bear with me and understand that when I put forth the however I am applying it to myself first and then others…
We tend to focus tremendously on the Glass house aspect…but how about a bit more focus on the Go and Sin No More Part?
The words said by Jesus I sadly fear are used by so many of us to “Justify” our Missing the Mark. Yes, our sins.
You cannot go on Twitter or Facebook or many other types of social media without coming across only a part of this passage…
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…”
We use it as a Shield…as a “Only God Can Judge Me.”
You have no right to say anything to me, type of attitude.
While I agree, yes, only Our Lord is Our Judge, we ARE called to mercifully lead others to Truth and yes, this means pointing out those slips and falls. Are we not?
Okay, that’s my 2 Cents 😉
And it’s coming because this past Sunday’s Homily was very much Love and Forgive Unconditionally…The problem with that – In My Very Much Ignorant Opinion -incomplete message is that we will and do run with it and allow all types of behaviour and just sit back and say, well, I’m no one to judge.
Okay, again, let me have it 😉
You are right, it’s only part of the message. One of the problems I see — taking your example of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media — is that many will say “Don’t cast your stone at me!” while they continue to throw stones at others. Perhaps we need to learn mercy in order to understand the depth of “Nor do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Some people need to know mercy before they will take the next step. Who will show it to them?
The only person we see showing mercy to others is the Gospel is Jesus. Now I can’t condemn other people, I should not judge, but I can show mercy. How else can I imitate Christ for others?
So a Blog on Mercy then?? 😉
I will be anxiously awaiting…