Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In his Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius tells us that we need to come to experience ourselves as loved sinners. Today’s gospel offers a wonderful reflection on what that might mean as Jesus confronts the darkness of sin with the light of truth and forgiveness.
The woman caught in adultery stands as a model of the experience of a loved sinner. That we are all sinners is clear. Ignatius invites us to ponder that reality but to do so in the context of the disarming love of God. We are loved in light of our sins not in spite of our sins. The loved sinner experiences that exchange with Jesus in the town square where our sins are made clear. He knows us inside and out. He knows our broken parts and knows our hurts and how we have hurt others. Jesus reaches out to us and straightens us up. He looks at us with love. And in that look, in the forgiveness that he offers, he sets us free. Everything else pales in comparison to this experience of Jesus. That’s not ethereal, spiritualized language. That’s the real life reality of what it means to be a companion of Jesus.
Today’s gospel of the woman caught in adultery reminds us of the invitation of God to accept forgiveness and enter into the freedom of life as a loved sinner. As Ignatius would say, be a companion of Jesus and hear those words spoken to you, “I do not condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
—Fr. Patrick McGrath, SJ, President of Loyola Academy
Lord, you extend your hand to me, and I take it. You see through my exterior. You know my failures, my nagging weaknesses. Yet, there will be no hesitation. You speak the same words to me that redeemed the woman: “I do not condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Lord, how much you really do love me! I have but one request. May I be your companion each and every day of my life.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team