There is a striking moment mentioned in today’s gospel: a moment that all of us have experienced. Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him
(Jn 8:9). At the distance of some centuries that have passed since that particular moment, we have the privilege of freezing time and of looking at this scene from different angles.
What was going through that woman’s mind? She had been caught in the act of committing a major offence. She knew that she was guilty. Worse yet, her accusers had brought her to this moment by force. The penalty for her wrong was clearly outlined, known to everyone. They would have been within their rights to stone her on the spot. How many times had she seen this sentence commuted? How many times before this moment had she counted her blessings, thankful that she herself was not the focus of the punishment? Had she ever thought to herself that she would never allow herself to be caught in such a predicament?
What thoughts were going through the minds of the men who stood there? They didn’t have to bring this woman to Jesus, but they did. They had heard about his reputation for being a respected teacher and they wanted to put him to the test. Teacher, they called him: a thinly veiled sign of respect. What they really wanted was to find his weakness. He had spoken about mercy, but if he was a respectable Jew, he would have to respect the Law. This woman was caught ... now what do you say?
(Jn 8:5) If he ignored the Law, he himself would be guilty; if he agreed with them, his reputation for being merciful would be tarnished.
What thoughts were going through Jesus’ mind as he bent down and wrote ... on the ground
(Jn 8:6). How well did he know the men who were standing there, looking accusingly at the woman? Was he aware of their own reputations? Were the words of the prophet Isaiah resounding in his ears? Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old ... I am about to do a new thing
(Is 43:18-19). What advice could he offer? What words could he speak? Did he have to control his emotions as he reasoned his way through this test?
They kept pushing him, questioning him. They wanted an answer.
Then his words rang out: Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone
(Jn 8:6). Crouched on the ground, she did not dare to look up. Did she know that their personal reputations were also questionable? Yet, who was she to make such a judgment? In the same moment, each of the accusers would have seen their lives flash before them. He had said, anyone among you who is without sin ... but each of them had their own hidden story, a story that they would never dare to speak aloud. They went away, one by one
This story is our story. Each one of us is an accuser. Each one of us is that woman. Each one of us has our own story to tell. Instead of accusing, let us pray for the conviction to do as Saint Paul did: to regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus
(Phil 3:8). This moment will end, and we must go out into the world to share this good news with those we encounter.