In the Gospel reading of this 5th Sunday of Lent, Year C (John 8:1-11), we are confronted with the story of the woman caught in adultery and how she was treated, with humiliation and condemnation by the crowd—made to be on the ground while everybody else was standing, her sin laid bare for all to see, surrounded by angry accusers willing to stone her to death, and stamped with shame and disgust. Where was the man caught with her in this act? The law required that both parties to adultery be stoned (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).
So, what we have here is a crowd that was not only unforgiving but also discriminatory and unjust. How easy it is to see others’ sins and not our own. How easy it is to seek for forgiveness and yet not forgive others. How easy it is to see the dust in another’s eye and not the plank in our own eyes. Many of us Christians go about our lives unforgiven by God because they are unforgiving people. To be forgiven, you must be forgiving. As a Church, we preach forgiveness yet many in our leadership and members find it hard to practice forgiveness. As the saying goes, "To err is human and to forgive is divine” and yet how many of us make it our duty to practice this truth.
When a fellow saint commits a wrong doing it is so easy for us to criticize, point fingers, and to condemn. But our Lord Jesus showed us a different model in this story. He bent down and met that woman where she was, on the ground, while everybody else was standing up. He identifying with her pain and sense of shame and aloneness. My friends, it is hard to be compassionate until you can feel someone’s pain. When Christ lifted His face up to answer her accusers, He rescued this woman from her sin, shame, indignity, and death. He reminded us that only a sinless person could cast the first stone thereby highlighting the importance of mercy and forgiveness. No wonder, in the face of His demand, the leaders slipped quietly away, from the oldest to the youngest; possibly, the older men were more aware of their sins than the younger ones because age and experience have a way of tempering youthful self-righteousness. But no matter what our age may be, we should always take a hard and honest look at our lives. As Scripture says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. It is only when we recognize our sinful nature that we are able to extend mercy to those who are struggling with sin in their lives. Our Christian vocation is to find ways to help the sinner and not to hurt them even more.
My friends, Jesus knows our worst sins, yet, all He does is to offers us compassion and mercy. May His mercy give us courage to face whatever guilt we may have from past sins knowing that His grace is greater than our sin. May His forgiving grace help us to show forgiveness and compassion to others who may have sinned against us, with the full knowledge that it is God’s role, alone, to judge, not ours.