Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the adulterous woman

The Adulterous Woman
from The Passion of the Christ

When the scribes and the Pharisees dragged an adulterous woman to Jesus, their intention was quite clear: they wanted her punished for her sins. Their eyes were fixed on the woman’s evil. After all, it was very clear. She transgressed the law. What was left to do was to punish her in the way dictated by the law. Thus, when they insisted on what they wanted, they were taken aback by the verdict of Jesus: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” For the past 3 Sundays of Lent, the Lord has been speaking on almost the same line: it is so much easy for us to look at other peoples’ sins without having recognized our own. In the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus asked: “Do you think they were more guilty than the others were in Jerusalem? By no means! But if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Last Sunday, the older son found it so easy to accuse his brother who squandered his father’s property on loose women without seeing how he himself served his father grudgingly. Today, we see how eager the scribes and Pharisees were to execute the woman until the Lord Jesus made them realize the universal affliction of sin: none of them were without sin. “And so they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.” All of them left, all except Jesus because he alone was the Sinless One.

And so, there they were: the sinful woman before the Sinless One, the adulterous woman and the Faithful One. The execution should have pushed through. After all, the one who had the right to cast the first stone was there seated before her. He is the one who could rightly say: “The Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” And yet, even though he had every right to do so (and he will exercise this right at the end of the world), he tells the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more.”

“God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The Lord Jesus repeats to us the lesson of the fig tree which, although deserves to be cut down for its lack of fruits, was given a reprieve of life, hoed around, and fertilized so that it may be given a chance to bear fruit. Indeed, by writing twice on the ground, he reveals himself as the Lord, the God of second chances. He is the One who makes things new: “Remember not the event of the past, the things of long ago consider it not; see, I am doing all things new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” This is the gospel, the real supreme good before which everything becomes rubbish: “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them to be so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” And rightfully should we regard all else as rubbish before him. After all, he picked us up from the rubbish of our sins, washes us with his own blood, and presents to us a future which nobody else can promise: eternal life in communion with him. He goes up to Jerusalem for this and willingly, we walk behind him with our crosses to bear: I “depend(ing) on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection, and (the) shar(ing of) his suffering by being conformed to his death, (so that)…I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Because he cast behind my back all my sins, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit towards the goal, the prize of upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Go and sin no more!

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