A Woman Caught in Adultery
If we are going to use euphemistic language, nowadays, we want to use words such as “extramarital affairs” instead of “adultery.” Why?
Well anyway, in today’s gospel the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees bring in a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. They make her stand in front of everyone to be stoned to death according to the Law of Moses. But before that, they ask Jesus of His advice. It is because this is one of the three gravest sins punishable by death.
All of us know that adultery is defined as sexual connection between a married person and one unmarried, or between a married person and the spouse of another. In most societies it is prohibited and condemned, sometimes with harsh punishment. Like for example, the Babylonian code of law of King Hammurabi (18th BC), adultery was punishable by death through drowning. In ancient Greece and in Roman law, the adulteress spouse could be killed. In Islam, the Koran states that those guilty of adultery are to be severely punished with 100 lashes. But the Jewish tradition was unequivocal in condemning adultery. It is because both adulterer and adulteress were to be executed (Lev 20:10) and this was to be done by stoning (Lev 22:13-24). But nowadays, we no longer practice this law of stoning the sinners to death. However, we gossip about other people to death. Gossip undermines the good that is in us and in our neighbor.
The Pharisees place Jesus in a dilemma in this gospel passage. It is because if He follows the Mosaic Law, He will lose His reputation as a compassionate man, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Mt 11:19) and in conflict with the Roman authorities. If He chooses leniency towards the adulteress, He will be accused of breaking the Mosaic Law and condoning adultery and so the consequences will be: He is perceived as a heartless man, an enemy of the family and a man without principles; causes couple’s breakup, the neglect of legitimate children, the proliferation of crimes of passion and etc.
But instead He answers them by touching their conscience: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” His approach is not legal like that of the scribes and the Pharisees but is moral and personal. Towards the end of the gospel He condemns the sin of adultery but He forgives the sinful adulteress. In other words He teaches us: “To hate the sin,” because He says: “From now on do not sin anymore,” but love and forgive the sinner because He says: “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you.” He is compassionate because He gives us another chance to repent and sin no more and He challenges us to a life of holiness.
At the end let us reflect this true story of a priest that I read. He was a much- loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace and no sense of God’s forgiveness.
In his parish there was a woman who deeply loved God and claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and He with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said: “The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in the seminary.” The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked: “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?” “Yes, He did,” she replied. “And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?” “Yes.” “Well, what did he say?” “He said, ‘I don’t remember’.” What God forgives, He forgets.