A Woman Caught in Adultery

John 8: 1-11
Dan 13:1-9,15-62 / Psa 23

Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
(John 8:7)

God alone can make us virtuous;
No good we do can we claim our own.
Jesus tells those who feel righteous:
“Let him without sin cast the first stone.”

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the elders first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replied. (John 8: 1-11)

Reflection

Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This verse has been quoted so casually that it has become a universal indictment against those who dare to stand in moral judgment over the faults or misbehaviors of others. And yet, through ages past, the wisdom of these words still remain as potent as when they were first addressed to the accusers of the adulterous woman. For all of us are sinners, and no one can judge others for their wrongdoings, except perhaps those who have been officially mandated by the bar of justice. And even these judges must be prepared to answer to their Greater Judge at the proper time for their decisions. This was why Jesus cautioned, “Judge not, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Mt.7:1-2).

Still, there are some unscrupulous individuals who use this verse to cover up their own malfeasances. In our city, where two known politicians have been rivals in many elections, the people were intrigued by big billboards upon which were boldly printed the words “Let him without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Whoever was responsible in putting up those billboards — the well-informed citizens know who it was — only succeeded in showing his lack of tact by unwittingly admitting his malpractices in office, and then shamefacedly using biblical scripture as a smokescreen in hitting back at his accusers. What gave him the authority to use the very words of our Lord against his critics who have every legal right to question his unscrupolous use of the city’s funds? By using this verse in John 8:7, he only compared himself to the woman caught in adultery — guilty as charged.

Our Lord forbids us to judge the character of our neighbor, for He alone knows his true nature. However, as His Word in Scripture tells us, we must not tolerate wrongful or immoral acts, and in fact it is our duty to point out what is wrong or evil. St. James said, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (Jam 5:20). In fact, even our spiritual leaders whom we believe are in the wrong must be corrected, as St. Paul wrote: “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning” (1Tim 5:20). In our zeal to stand for the truth, however, let us be guided by the words of a certain wise man who said, “It is more prudent to be kind than to be right.” Finally, Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Lk.17:3).

Father God, grant us the grace of discernment, so that we may be guided accordingly in our dealings with our brothers and sisters, to stand firmly for the truth of the Gospel, but being considerate of their feelings when correcting the error of their ways. Amen.

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