The major theme in today’s Gospel is compassion. Jesus is seen as the model of compassion for us to follow. We learn of his depth and understanding in this Gospel. Indeed this is a blessed and wonderful theme to think about in our lives just before the beginning of Holy Week.
In hearing this Gospel we learn that Jesus has been manipulated by the scribes and Pharisees who have humiliated a woman for their own ends. As can often happen with important leaders, people are to be used as needed and then coldly disposed of.
This woman’s private sin is made public for the sake of the Pharisees’ position of power. She is roughly pushed forward in front of Jesus, who is busy talking in hushed tones with people right near the temple. Jesus is set up to answer a question that was a trap to justify the religious opinions of the scribes and Pharisees. They wanted him to spare this woe begotten woman and expose himself to be very different from who he really was in the people’s minds. They were trying to deal with this very popular Jesus who was a miracle worker, a rabbi or Messiah to many people.
We certainly can image this entire scene quite easily: the tension, the glances and the pressure all building on one and all. When the accusers make the charges against this woman in vulgar fashion, Jesus does react to their crudeness at how they speak of this child of God. Note there is no mention or name calling of the man who was caught with her. Can you hear how the silence of Jesus is deafening? He is absolutely still, but the Pharisees and scribes keep talking and talking. Then Jesus finally arises above one and all and says the impossible: “Let the one among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). And then he draws something else in the sand. Bit by bit the great power of the words of Jesus enlightens the men and they sneak away. Note how the oldest ones, who should have had the most wisdom, catch on first, and leave first.
Finally we hear the compassionate words of Jesus. No one has condemned her, nor will Jesus. In the end, the scribes and Pharisees did not condemn the woman. They did not for their own reasons. Far more importantly is that Jesus did not condemn her either. Neither did he excuse her or dismiss her as of no account. Jesus, instead, asked for her conversion. Then she, too, quietly went away.
We have no knowledge of this woman’s name. We do not even know what happened to her after this event. This unknown woman is a symbol for every person who stands in need of compassion. She is, in fact, each one of us at various times in our lives. What happened to her later does not really impact us as much as what happens to us when we receive the mercy and forgiveness of our God. God’s compassion for each one of us should impel us to live a life of mercy, kindness and compassion towards everyone in our lives.
Next weekend begins Holy Week. We will have the Blessing of Palm at the 4 PM Saturday Mass (April 13) and palm will be available at all the Masses that weekend (April 13-14). Please plan to attend the graced and beautiful Sacred Triduum Services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. They are all at 7:30 PM. I know some folks have the special custom of attending Mass as a family of many generations on Easter Sunday and would not attend the Saturday Vigil. Please plan to be present and participate at the Washing of Feet and the Lord’s Supper Mass on Holy Thursday (7:30 PM) or the Passion of the Lord Service on Good Friday (7:30 PM). We also offer the Stations of the Cross on the Common at Noon or at 3 PM in our Church.