The WORD in Other Words by Fr Raymund Festin SVD (Rome) for Monday 5th Week of Lent
“So, what do you say?” the Pharisees ask Jesus, urging Him to assume the role of a judge in disposing of the case of the woman caught in adultery. But Jesus eschews that invidious office and, instead, gives it to the Pharisees: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Jesus’ behavior astounds us. He acts so differently from the way we would have treated the woman.
Human beings, while generally kind and good, are also cruel, hypercritical, hateful, spiteful, impatient to judge, quick to condemn, and swift to sink the sword of retribution. The threatening crowd exemplifies this dark side—jeering at the hapless woman, relishing her predicament, and raring for a kill.
Jesus has all the moral perfections of human nature but none of its flaws and failings. Only God can be that gentle, kind, and compassionate.
It is intriguing that Jesus does not forgive the woman. Nor does she ask for it. No forgiveness asked, no forgiveness given. And Jesus does not insist on, or force the issue of pardon. He just lets the matter rest: “Neither do I condemn you . . . Go . . .” By only showing kindness and gentleness to her, Jesus restores the woman’s dignity, honor, and self-respect. He overlooks her guilt and treats her in equal terms. Here, compassion trumps forgiveness. This means that mercy is greater than forgiveness. Sometimes, showing mercy is enough. Mercy short circuits redemption by skating over forgiveness.
I often wonder what’s happened to the woman after her encounter with Jesus. Perhaps, she has followed Him to Golgotha, witnessing His torture, agony, and death on the cross. No one knows she is there. And she is silently weeping for the Gentleman she loves . . .
– Fr. Raymun Festin, SVD (Rome, Italy)
Source – The WORD in Other Words, Bible Diary 2020