Casting the First Stone

A story is told about a man who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed in his younger years. Though he had long confessed and repented of it, still he found no peace in his heart. One night, he had a dream in which he saw Jesus standing on a meadow surrounded by a flock of sheep. Grateful for this opportunity, he came near him in order to ask: “Lord, do you still remember the sin I committed back in high school?” Jesus smiled sweetly and reassured him: “I don’t remember.”

Today’s gospel (Jn 8:1-11) presents a powerful narrative of Jesus with a woman accused of adultery. It happened in the precincts of the temple in Jerusalem where he was teaching. The scenario must have been intensely dramatic calculated to cause the woman tremendous shame. In the Jewish Code, there were three grave sins that merited the punishment of death by stoning: idolatry, murder and adultery. Moreover, it was a difficult trap because his opponents used this very occasion to embarrass Jesus.

Jesus finally gave his verdict: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In other words, he warned them: Let this woman be punished, but not by sinners; let the law be applied, but not by its transgressors. Thus Jesus brilliantly raised the issue to a higher level leaving the judgment to the consciences of the accusers. In the end, they all went away one by one, beginning with the elders.

The woman was let alone. Jesus became the instrument of God’s mercy. This story reminds us that God is willing to extend his loving patience for sinners that they may turn away from their sins. Jesus did not condemn her, but also sternly commanded her: “Go and sin no more.” Pope Francis said: God, indeed is never tired of forgiving us. Perhaps, it is us who get tired of asking for his mercy. Then he prayed, may we never tire of asking for what God never tires to give.”

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