Homily on John 8:1-11
“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” She was a woman who was caught, literally caught in her sin in a very public way. Let’s put ourselves in her shoes for a moment. She must have known that adultery was wrong, and yet she had her reasons for being in this relationship. She likely tried to keep it a secret, but the secret got out. And the first reaction of people that found out was to judge her and condemn her as unworthy to be among them.
Further, those that judged her felt justified in publicly humiliating the woman. She was dragged in front of others so the entire community would know what she had done. What were people in the crowd saying about her? Did they think she deserved the punishment the Pharisees demanded? Did they gossip about her? And to add insult to injury, the Pharisees were using her humiliation and misfortune to further their own agenda. Their self-righteousness likely made them feel justified in their treatment of the woman and in using the situation to their advantage.
But what is Jesus’ response to this self-righteous attitude? Jesus puts the Pharisees in their place by asking them a simple and cutting question: “Who are you and what qualifies you to judge?” He reminds the crowd that all of them are sinners and that true judgement comes only from God. Jesus sees right through their false sense of moral superiority and exposes their true motives and selfishness.
Let’s put ourselves back in the woman’s shoes. What must she be feeling now that the crowd’s gone? She’s no longer caught and has a means of escape, so why didn’t she leave? Perhaps she recognized that Jesus offered her something more than just escaping the crowd. What does Jesus offer her? He offers mercy and forgiveness. But this mercy and forgiveness requires something of the woman. Jesus also calls her to repentance and conversion. She must turn away from her sin and change her life. Imagine her relief at Jesus’ words. She was not condemned but offered life. She must have felt like a weight was lifted from her shoulders.
What does this mean for us? We need to accept Jesus’ offer of mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can be relieved of the burden of our sins, experience the grace of God’s healing, and, strengthened by the sacrament, turn away from sin. Then, having ourselves received this mercy and kindness, we can emulate Jesus by extending it to others. We begin by not judging others. In this age of electronic communication and social media, it’s especially important not to condemn those with whom we disagree. It’s so easy to hurl words of righteous indignation at a person on the other side of our computer screen we cannot see. In showing others mercy and forgiveness instead of judgement, we may inspire them to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for themselves and convert their lives also.