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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Lent Week 5 Monday – Go away and do not sin again

Monday, March 30, 2009

In today’s Gospel passage from John, Jesus returns from the Mount of Olives to the Temple in order to teach and is almost at once embroiled in a most dramatic episode. The scribes and Pharisees bring before him for judgement a woman who has been ‘caught in the very act of committing adultery’. But the case is far from clear cut; a trap has been laid for Jesus. Is he to advise condemning the woman under Jewish Law and sanction death by stoning, disobeying the Roman authorities who had forbidden the Jews to exercise such power over their own people, or is he seemingly  to  condone her actions and do nothing?

The trap is, however, a little crude, for those assembled surely know a little more than they let on. Where for instance is the man they must also have caught ‘in the very act’ for he too is surely liable for the same judgement under Jewish law? That the woman is indeed sinful is not disputed but that there is much more to the case clearly impresses itself upon Jesus. He declares, 'if there is any one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her'. This is often misquoted and taken by some as a licence to sin, or as a sign that no one can take up a moral issue and censure sinful behaviour since none of us is without sin. This is a sad corruption of Jesus’ words in which he wishes to chastise severely those present in the Temple for their part in this distasteful affair. They are not without sin in this regard because they are in some way complicit in the adulterous actions that have been committed.

We, therefore, often miss the most important aspect of this passage, that of the unrestrained mercy of Christ. The woman has sinned, she makes no effort to deny or conceal this, and stands humbly before him. Subsequently Jesus extends to her the Divine forgiveness that we are all in need of in our lives. It is right that we are not too quick to judge and it is certainly right that we do not put God to the test as the Pharisees tried to do to Jesus, but neither is it a matter of condoning wrongful behaviour, turning a blind eye to sin (especially in our own lives). It is a matter of recognising our sinfulness and placing our humble trust in Christ before whom we must all be judged. Let us then hide nothing from him but turn towards him with all our hearts for forgiveness and by our example encourage others to do the same.

Graham Hunt OP

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