Monday, April 11, 2011

Casting Stones

Today's very famous Gospel (John 8: 1-11) tells the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. It is presented not as rumor or supposition, but as fact. She was caught "in the very act". Now there are several problems with her accusers. First of all, the Moses wrote in the law that both the man and woman were to be given a careful trial and, if found guilty, both were to be stoned. None of these procedures were being followed. Jesus, on the other hand, is being very careful to observe the law, even to the point of writing on the ground. This act of writing on the ground is itself very significant. It was unlawful to write even two letters on the sabbath but that writing with dust was permissible. The previous passage makes it clear that this was the eighth day of the feast, which was to be kept as a day of rest, so then Jesus' writing on the ground would show that he knows well not only the law but also the oral interpretations that only permitted writing in the dust.
The entire event backfires on those who wanted to trap Jesus, since he challenges them with neither an approval nor condemnation, but rather asserts that the one who should cast the first stone was the one who had not sinned. Those who condemned this woman as a sinner end up admitting their own sinfulness by slinking away, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. And, as the only one who had the right to condemn and cast the first stone, Jesus instead shows Divine Mercy and refuses to condemn, but tells the woman to go and sin no more.
Many questions come to me as a result of reflecting on this passage. How often do I want to cast stones, denouncing the sins of others? Why do I not think of my own sinfulness first? And how many times have I placed more emphasis on the "go and sin no more" part of the story, rather than the "neither do I condemn you" part? and why do I think that I even have the right to judge the actions of others as sinful, when only God alone has this right?
I hope to be able to have time today to go back to this passage - several times. I need to let it seep into the depths of my being, so that I am able to realize that I cannot cast stones. Indeed, I have to pray that the Lord will be as forgiving of me as He was of this woman... and of the people who thought to condemn her!

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