“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7).
As these words came forth from the mouth of Jesus, there must have been a deafening stillness. A mob had gathered that wanted blood around a woman seeking to stone her for being caught in the act of adultery. Had this woman actually been caught in the “very act”? Were there those that were scheming so scrupulously that they would spy on her at that moment, or like our first reading from the Book of Daniel was this a false accusation because the woman refused the advancement of someone who wanted to commit adultery with her and she refused? Either way, Jesus helped to restore the dignity of this woman by showing the common shortcoming of our fallen humanity.
Today’s Gospel account from John helps us to come to terms with the reality that we are all unified in the reality that we all fall short of the glory of God that we were originally created for. Fortunately, there was no one present who thought himself so self-righteous that he had not committed any sin. All left and only Jesus and the woman remained. It was only then that he spoke to her.
Jesus’ goal for each person he encounters is that we come to terms with our own sin, to repent and believe in the Gospel. Yet, he does so not by condemning us but by showing us how we are off the mark and bestowing his mercy and love upon us. In this way, he guides us to the path that will lead to what is truly good, not the false allures of apparent goods that may glitter at the moment, but then fade.
Jesus loves us more than we can ever mess up, but he does not want us to remain in our sin. By doing so, we are separating ourselves from a more real and intimate relationship with God and one another. Jesus is about healing those aspects of our choices, behaviors, habits, and vices that keep us separated. Lent is a more intense period where we make the time to become more aware of our vices so that through the love and mercy of God and in collaboration with him, we can transform them into virtues.
May we examine our conscience, call to mind those areas in which we have fallen short of the glory of God in our lives, where we have sinned, and with humility share them with Jesus and so with the woman caught in adultery hear too his words, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11).