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Friday, March 15, 2013



John 8:1-11

The opening statement of our gospel this Sunday “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” reminds us of the prophecy of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:22-23) that the glory of the Lord ascended on Mount of Olives. “At daybreak Jesus appeared in the Temple again” tells us that Jesus was like a breaking dawn manifesting his glory.   When Solomon became corrupt, he built on the Mount of Olives idolatrous temples which were destroyed by Josiah.  That place was also known as the Hill of Corruption (2 Kings 23:13-14).  This becomes our background in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

The scribes and Pharisees used the woman caught in adultery to trap Jesus: if Jesus freed the woman, He would be against the law of Moses which legitimizes the stoning of a person caught in adultery.  On the other hand, if Jesus condemned the woman by stoning to death, He would be against His teaching on love and compassion.  In this dilemma, either which way Jesus would be a loser.  But He had a way of dealing with justice and mercy.

“Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger” was first the response of Jesus.  Because they insisted to ask Him, he straightened up and said to them “Let anyone of you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  For the second time, “He bent down again and continued writing on the ground.”  What did Jesus write on the ground?  There have been many speculations on the possible things that Jesus wrote on the ground but the scriptures does not tell us what they were.  Maybe the more important question to ask is “Why did Jesus write on the ground and why did He use His fingers in writing?  The answer to these questions will help us understand why the Jews went away, one by one, starting from the elders without stoning the woman to death.   The key to understand the actions of Jesus: bending and writing twice lies in the Old Testament.  Moses stayed in Mt. Horeb with God for forty days and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God.  The Israelites became weary and made a molten calf which they worshipped as their god.  In their idolatry, the people sinned against God (Ex. 32).  In anger, Moses threw the two tablets and broke them at the foot of the mountain (Ex 32: 19).  In the course of their journey, God wrote for the second time the law on the new tablets prepared by Moses (Ex. 34).   God was giving them a second chance after they sinned.

When the people saw Jesus wrote for the second time, they saw in Him the God of the Old Testament who wrote twice on the tablets of the law.  They were also reminded of the idolatry not just of their ancestors but most especially their own.   When they realized this, they left without stoning the woman because they knew that they were adulterous as well in their own ways.

When the people were gone, St. Augustine says “Two were left: misery and mercy.”  Jesus in justice acknowledged the sin of the woman: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” but He equally proclaimed His mercy: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin again.”

When we enter into the story and become part of it, who are we?  Are we the adulterous woman in the lowest of the low? Are we the incriminating scribes and Pharisees in our self-righteousness hidden in the pretext of religiosity?  Or are we the crowd with stones in our hands ready to throw to others whom we think are more sinful than us in the guise of justice and piety?

In one way or another, are we not all adulterous before God? Have we not all received a second chance from God?  If we only accept in humility that we are miserable before God, He will reveal His face to us which is the face of mercy. Even if we are the most miserable person in the whole world, God will still embrace us the way He embraces His beloved saints. 
God's mercy is greater than the sum of all our misery and shame.


  1. It is good to learn more about this incident in the Gospel, Father because it enlightens the mind with the added impetus of a tradition which goes back to Moses and reminds us how the Jewish faith weaves its way through the tapestry of Jesus' life as well as our own. Your questions and challenges are those of Jesus, almost as if He is speaking/challenging us directly. Thank you :)

    Margaret Meek.