Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
A priest once told in his homily that a large number of our women who were prostitutes moved into the greater Manila area where the U.S. Bases in the cities of Olongapo and Angeles were closed to look for more green pastures. In the streets of Mabini and Ermita in Manila, we see red lights sparkling and young ladies lined in the streets waiting for their customers to be picked up. A few dedicated and committed Christians decided to commit their lives offering friendship and whatever services they could give to those young women. So, they approached the church in that area to ask if they could use the conference hall during evening for this noble purpose, to have a coffee, small talk and friendship with them. When some parishioners heard what kind of people would be using their hall, they were scandalized and refused it to be used.
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees and the scribes brought to Jesus an adulterous woman for Him to judge. Adultery, in the Jewish law, was a serious crime punishable with death by stoning. Just like here in the Philippines, we have so called death penalty. Some of the crimes punishable by death here in the Philippines are rape, drug trafficking, plundering and other heinous crimes.
Anyway, the main purpose of the Pharisees and scribes is to trap Jesus and used this against Him. It is not because they wanted to uphold the law. That if Jesus would say: “Yes, stone her and kill her’” He would lose His untarnished name with the crowd that He is compassionate and loving with the sinners. He would no longer be seen as the merciful miracle worker. He would lose His popularity and He would lose His appeal to the crowd. And if He would say: “No, do not kill her,” then, He would be caught too because they would be able to accuse Him of being against the law and of being against their traditions.
But Jesus did not bite their trap. Instead He said to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” (v. 7). These words of Jesus strike them like a sharp sword thrusting their hearts, opening their hearts and realizing that they too are sinners and no one of them can claim that she/he is good and without blemish even her husband.
In the gospel of St. Matthew (chapter 7), Jesus said: “Judge not and you will not be judged…take first the plank out of you eye, then you will see clear enough to take the speck out of your brothers’ eyes…” So, one of the lessons we can get from this gospel is about judging and condemning others.
Nowadays, judging or condemning others becomes our favorite past time. This becomes institutionalized and commercialized. Our gossip columns and Television talks are using this judging or condemning others in order to make their shows top rated – judging and condemning our celebrities in public even without the benefit of the doubt and before they are proven guilty.
I watched this television talk show by which the two hosts brought into their show these two actresses who were exchanging harsh words against each other. There in front of the camera and with the public watching the show, they made to justify, argue and even exchanged again harsh words against each other. What a pity! It was very degrading on the part of these two actresses and the hosts even made jokes of these two actresses.
A priest told in his homily that from the mid-60s until the late 70s when he was still in the activist movement, even his co-priests called him a communist. They even opened his letter without his permission and searched even his room.
Now that he shifts to a more conciliatory and more contemplative life, he was being judged as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘counterproductive.’
It is very fresh in our minds about the banning of the movie entitled Live Show shown in all movie houses. A group of people including Cardinal Sin, the good Cardinal of Manila Archdiocese, wanted this movie not to be shown and the government adhered to their request. Some of the people especially those in the movie industry reacted. They gave so many reasons why they are against the banning of the movie. For example, they said that it is for art’s sake. Other reason could be that they wanted to show the evil effect of poverty and a director even quoted and used the Bible to prove that they are. According to him that even the Bible discussed sex. One newspaper columnist once said that Cardinal Sin the modern demon or modern devil and many more. These are some of the examples that here in the Philippines, judging and condemning others is one of our favorite past time.
The attitude of Jesus that He did not condemn the woman does not mean that He condones the sins but He wanted to help the woman change her life. Also for us to reflect that we have no right to judge and condemn others for two reasons: we are sinful and we cannot possibly see what is in the heart of the person we condemn.
Jesus forgives the adulterous woman not because of her sin is harmless but because he loves even sinners like her. He gives her another life and chance to change for the better. A chance to redeem herself of her dignity as a child of God.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C