Today, on the Fifth Sunday of the Lenten cycle, we hear the story of the adulterous woman that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought before Jesus for his judgment.
Stories of adulterous women keep reappearing in history. Remember Nathanial Hawthorne’s famed masterpiece The Scarlet Letter? A group of colonial New Englanders condemned a young woman as an adulteress and forced her to wear the letter “A” writ large on her clothing, to acknowledge her sin. As recently as 2000, newspapers reported that a seventeen year old unmarried girl in Nigeria was flogged 100 times for having sex. It didn’t matter to the authorities that the girl said she was pressured by her father to have sex with three men. In our own jails, women are held for prostitution. To us, they are unnamed, invisible. We don’t know their stories or their pain.
But why is this encounter of Jesus placed here on the Sunday just before Holy Week? Two reasons come to mind.
First, this is one more instance of the Scribes and the Pharisees looking for – devising ways of trapping Jesus. Who knows, perhaps this woman is a pawn, a set up used to ensnare Jesus. And second, this passage shows us still again that Jesus does not condemn the bruised, the broken or the outcast.
In fact, Jesus demonstrates great tenderness for this unnamed woman, and throughout the Gospel, for all women.
When the Scribes and the Pharisees called for the death of this woman, Jesus seemed to hesitate,
writing in the sand at his feet. But it was a moment of grace. The accusers drifted away. Only Jesus and the woman were left, taking each other’s measure.
With all this as a background, we finally come to the connection between the 5th Sunday of Lent and Holy Week. He who will not trap others, will himself be trapped. He who will not condemn, will himself be condemned. He, who will send no one to their death because it is the law, will be sentenced to death, because, as the Scribes and Pharisees put it: “We have a law, and by this law, he must die.”
Jesus loved this woman into new life.
Next week, who among us will love Jesus into new life?
As we come to immerse ourselves into Christ on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and at the Easter Vigil, will we bear the Jesus of today’s Gospel in our hearts? Will his mantle be on our shoulders? A mantle that proclaims “I will trap no one. I will condemn no one. I will love the outcast into life.”
If we allow it, God, as it says in today’s first reading from Isaiah, “ will be doing something new “ in you and me.
~Sister Joan Sobala