Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 John 8:1-11

“If there is one of you who has not sinned …”

Without a doubt the Scribes and Pharisees were pious people, committed to observing all the demands of the Law, yet lacking something in their religious outlook and behaviour. There was no room for grace. They saw themselves as earning salvation by their righteous living. They had no need of forgiveness or favour – neither from God nor from anyone else. They were legalistic and self-sufficient, coldly disapproving of the failures of others and devoid of any compassion for sinners. So we see the woman in today’s story simply being used by them as a pawn to entrap Jesus in a dispute about Law.

In response to the situation, Jesus first wrote on the ground with his finger. What he wrote we do not know; maybe he was doodling to let things quieten down! Then, when he did speak, he did not reply directly to their question about the legal penalty for her sin. Instead he directed their attention to their own sins. “If there is one of you who has not sinned …” Can any one of you claim to be without sin? One by one they departed. At last, Jesus and the woman were left alone, the sinless and the sinner, and through him we see the working of God’s gracious mercy. He did not condemn her, but he did command her to make a new start – to ‘go, and don’t sin any more”.

He did not condone the sin but forgave the sinner, and did so in a startlingly easy manner. It was for such uncompromisingly loving and forgiving behaviour that he was finally put to death.

 

 

The scene of today's Gospel, with Jesus writing on the ground with his finger,
as portrayed in Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ"

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