The Gospel on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, tells a heart-stopping tale of Jesus defence and liberation of a woman taken in adultery.
His opponents open her to public shame and ridicule, even to the possibility of being stoned to death. Jesus opens them to a deeper self-knowledge and has them self-convict of sin.
They slink away, and Jesus offers mercy, consolation and assistance to the woman: he restores her to life.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’
Back then he liberated one woman. Countless since have been liberated by their hearing of the story, their reading of the story. The word of God is indeed, alive and active, sacrament of the Living Word himself.
- Where does the story touch you?
- What hope does it provide? What challenge?
- What place does the word of God have in your spiritual life?
Detail of The Magdalene reading by Rogier van der Weyden. Collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris