Gospel: John 8: 1-11
As this morning’s Gospel concerns judging others I was attracted to spending extra time with it during the week in the hope that it would help me with my failings in this area.
In the course of the Gospel the Pharisees and Scribes, who are sinners like the rest of us, accuse this poor woman of her specific sin in front of Jesus and all those present.
Jesus, with great wisdom, compassion and courtesy bends down to write on the ground, thus avoiding embarrassing the poor woman by staring at her and later, even avoiding embarrassing the Pharisees and Scribes as they leave one by one admitting their own guilt as sinners themselves when responding to the words of Jesus – “if there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Even as Jesus pronounces the following beautiful words of forgiveness and freedom to the woman “Neither do I condemn you, go away and don’t sin any more,” he looks up at her from his stooped position of humility, reminding me of the Gospel text spoken by Jesus, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your soul” (Mt 11:29).
He saves this poor woman from both physical and spiritual death in an instant.
This Gospel teaches me that in the light of Jesus’ own silent suffering for all of us during his passion and horrific death on the cross, that every accusation by one of us against another has to fall silent for as the text in Romans says “ God has imprisoned all people in their disobedience - not to punish them, as the Pharisees and Scribes wanted for this woman, and as we too, in our own sinfulness may want for another – but that he might have mercy on all” ( Rom: 11:32)- on accusers and accused alike. Jesus has suffered for all of us in order to gain heaven’s forgiveness for all of us and for that reason no one can pass judgment on, or accuse anyone else in God’s presence.
There are many stories in the tradition of the Desert Fathers to help and guide us in this area. I give these three examples:
Abba Arsenius was once asked by a disciple: “ Why is it that I pass judgment on my brothers so frequently’? He answered him: ‘Because you don’t yet know yourself. Whoever really knows himself doesn’t see the brothers’ mistakes. If anyone is bearing his own sins, he does not look on those of his neighbours.”
When Abba Agathon saw something and his heart wished to pass judgment on the thing, he would tell himself: “Agathon, don’t do it.” And thus his thinking came to rest.”
Abba Poemen said “If you see someone sinning pray to the Lord and say: ‘Forgive me if I have sinned’.”
And so I pray that I and all of us may renounce the temptation to be accusers of, or to pass judgment on our brothers and sisters and that we may be given the grace to reflect the compassion, wisdom, courtesy, forgiveness and love of Jesus, as portrayed in today’s Gospel - Jesus, who lovingly and willingly silently suffered and died to gain heaven’s forgiveness for all of us,