April 03, 2022
The play “To Kill a Mockingbird” is on stage at Shea’s. Gregory Peck won an Oscar for playing Atticus Finch in the movie. Harper Lee depicts Atticus, a lawyer, the hero of her book, as honorable, brave, respectful, compassionate, and smart. The type of advocate we would want especially if the outcome were death by stoning. Can we image Atticus defending the woman caught in adultery?
He would likely question the time and the place. Pharisees and scribes bring a woman early in the morning and make her stand before Jesus who is teaching in the temple precincts. Already there is a crowd. They accuse her of adultery and cite the harsh punishment prescribed in the Law of Moses that such women should be stoned. It is less a judicial hearing and more a spectacle. Atticus would ask the obvious question of the those making the accusation against the woman, “Where is the man?”
Atticus would size up that their questioning of Jesus is not pursuit of justice but a means to trap Jesus. If Jesus says she should be stoned, he would be breaking Roman Law that prohibits such an exercise of capital punishment. If Jesus says let her go free, he would be disregarding Mosaic Law that those who commit adultery should be punished.
Jesus refuses to assume the role of a lawyer defending the woman. Nor does Jesus assume the role of Judge deciding her fate. Jesus bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. They continue to press him for a response. Jesus straightens up and says to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bends down again and draws in the ground. “And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.”
Jesus is now alone with the woman. He says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies, “No one sir.” Jesus says to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” Jesus does not condemn the woman and he does not condone the sin.
Lent is a season both of repentance for our sins and trust in God’s mercy. Our Gospel story cautious us against judging and condemning others. We are all sinners. Jesus makes it clear, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and your will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Luke 6:36-38
Fourth Sunday of Lent C