Is. 43:16-21; Phil. 3:8-14; Jn. 8:1-11
During today's First Reading, we heard the prophetic Words of the Lord God speaking to the prophet Isaiah. Yahweh began by identifying Himself. He said that it was He who created Israel. It was He who led the Exodus of His people under the leadership of Moses. It was He who divided the Red Sea and who destroyed the great army of the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was He who quenched the life out of the enemies of His people. In view of all these remarkable deeds, the Lord demanded his people to turn away from sin and be holy.
God the Father promised to make a new and everlasting Covenant. [Jer. 31:31] He promised to live with His people. [Jer. 31:33] He promised to give His children a new heart and a new spirit. [Ezek. 11:19-20; 18:31] He promised the indwelling of His Spirit within His children so that they would remain good and obey His Holy ways. [Ezek. 36:26-7] All these fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.
During today's Gospel Reading, Jesus gave us a basic command “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before the people, they said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?'
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When the scribes and Pharisees kept on questioning him, Jesus straightened up and said to them, 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.'"
Commenting on today’s Gospel, St. Augustine wrote that at that moment, “man’s sinfulness” and “God’s mercy” met face to face.
During Lent the Church reminds of God’s mercy and admonishes us to turn away from sin.
In this story the attitude of the elders and the attitude of Jesus were poles apart. The elders were totally unconcerned. Their only aim was to establish their authority. Often we also stand with the elders in judging others. There is no room for mercy in their attitude. Often we too fall into this category. We expect mercy from God. We expect mercy from others; but deny it to others.
During the rule of Julius II in Rome, an inconceivable incident took place. A woman named Pero was found breastfeeding a grown-up man, Cimon. Pero was Cimon’s daughter. She was imprisoned after the guards discovered her act. The act was considered perverted, incestuous, and formidable.
A man named Cimon stole some food, bread to be precise. After being tried for his offense, he was sentenced to death by starvation. He daughter Pero did not want to leave him to death. Devastated by her father’s fate, Pero begged for permission to see her father until he would die of starvation. She was allowed to visit her father daily on a condition.
Before entering Cimon’s cell, the guards would thoroughly search Pero. This search was to ensure that Pero would not sneak in any food for her father. However, as the days passed and Cimon remained healthy and fit, the guards were puzzled.
When she was arrested and presented before the judge, The judge realized that the root cause of Pero’s actions came from a place of empathy for her father. Additionally, the judge lifted the death penalty from Pero’s father.
Like the guards in this story and the elders before Jesus we are quick to judge people around us. But the attitude of Jesus was entirely different. For Jesus, what really counted at that moment was the woman; the way to bring her back to his Father, and to help her begin a new life. When God offers his mercy to us we are also to be instruments for others to experience the mercy of God.
An old man met a young man who asked:
“Do you remember me?”
And the old man said no. Then the young man told him he was his student, And the teacher asked:
“What do you do, what do you do in life?”
The young man answered:
“Well, I became a teacher.”
“Ah, how good, like me?” Asked the old man.
“Well, yes. In fact, I became a teacher because you inspired me to be like you.”
The old man, curious, asked the young man at what time he decided to become a teacher. And the young man told him the following story:
“One day, a friend of mine, also a student, came in with a nice new watch, and I decided I wanted it and I stole it, I took it out of his pocket.
Shortly after, my friend noticed the flight and immediately complained to our teacher, who was you. Then you went to the class:
‘This student’s watch was stolen during classes today. Whoever stole it, please return it.’
I didn’t give it back because I didn’t want to. Then you closed the door and told us all to get up and you were going to search our pockets one by one until the watch was found. But you told us to close our eyes, because you would only look for his watch if we all had our eyes closed.
So we did, and you went from pocket to pocket, and when you went through my pocket, you found the watch and took it. You kept searching everyone’s pockets, and when you were done you said
‘Open your eyes. We have the watch.’
You didn’t tell me and you never mentioned the episode. You never said who stole the watch either. That day you saved my dignity forever. It was the most shameful day of my life.
But this is also the day my dignity was saved and I decided not to become a thief, a bad person, etc. You never said anything, nor even scold me or took me aside to give me a moral lesson, I received your message clearly.
And thanks to you, I understood what a real educator needs to do. Do you remember this episode, professor?
And the professor answers:
‘I remember the situation, the stolen watch, which I was looking for in everyone’s pocket, but I didn’t remember you, because I also closed my eyes while looking.’
Let us be like the good professor. It is a great quality not to judge others but to help everyone to hold their dignity.