31 Mar A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (3rd April) 2022
Written by Cormac O’Brolchain C.S.Sp.
Ordained in 1968, Fr. Cormac did pastoral and education ministry in Kenya including in St Mary’s School, Nairobi. Returning to Ireland in the 1980s, he was Principal of Blackrock College (1987 – 2000) and, later, President. Currently, he is the Spiritual Director of the College and Leader of the Blackrock College Spiritan Community.
Today’s story of the woman caught in adultery is immensely sad. Some say that, as He was so upset, Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground to avoid the eyes of the malevolent, misled Scribes and Pharisees. Others say that He wrote the sins of the indicting leaders. No one is sure.
One way or the other as Jesus did so, He listened to the Scribes and Pharisees knowing that they had totally misunderstood God’s immeasurable love for people, and that laws were made for people not people for laws. Laws were there to help people grow in love and forgiveness: “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.”
Yes, the woman did wrong; but their condemning her as a sinner to be disgraced and killed, as if their blameless and perfect lives gave them the right so to do, was beyond belief. These men also knew that if Jesus agreed to her stoning, He would indeed be putting the law before people, which was contrary to His constant teaching. And He also would be going against the Roman Law which was at that time in force in Jerusalem and which forbade Jews killing anyone without Roman consent.
So, the Scribes and Pharisees stood smugly by, delighted with their seemingly checkmate intervention, that is until Jesus straightened up and looked at them. “Let anyone who has not sinned cast the first stone,” Jesus said.
What! How could anyone say that they had never sinned? Now the onlookers waited for their leaders’ response. Deadly silence. The Scribes and Pharisees were left with no choice; quietly, and no doubt with fury, they all slinked away. Not one remained.
Jesus then faced the woman and gently told her then that whereas He would not condemn her, what she had done was wrong, and she should go and not do it again.
One would wonder at us followers of Jesus today – whose side are we on?
- Do we easily condemn individuals and groups or do we accept others condemning without question: in books, newspapers, television, websites etc?
- Can any of us cast the first stone?
- Are these people we condemn our brothers and sisters, the children of God our Father?
Of course, they are. “Love one another as I have loved you.”