LENT 2016: Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Mar. 13

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by Antonia Malone, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

Isaiah 43:16-21 | Philippians 3:8-14 | John 8:1-11

“Let the one among you who is without sin,
be the first to cast a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7)

See I am doing something new. (Is 43:19)

This is probably one of the few stories in the lectionary where the original “Let the man among you…” may be more accurate, for surely there were no women preparing to throw stones. It was the Pharisees and the scribes who brought the woman to Jesus demanding that she be stoned as they claimed Moses commanded in the law; and, if there were women in the Temple area, they were no doubt cowering in fear, as another one of their gender was about to be subjected to the violence of the dominant patriarchy. No mention is made of the man involved, and one might have expected Jesus to note this injustice, as the Mosaic law counsels that in cases of adultery, both the man and the woman be put to death (Lev 20:10). But Jesus recognized the trap, and neatly evaded it by suggesting that the man among them who was without sin be the first to cast a stone at her. And to their faint credit, they melted away, after which Jesus also declined to condemn her. (Do I hear an echo of Pope Francis’ refusal to judge?)

In today’s first reading, Isaiah cautions the chosen people that God is calling them to remember not the ways of the past but, “see, I am doing something new!” The refusal to participate in violence was something new in first century Palestine. Neither the Pharisees nor the woman were condemned by Jesus who suggests that both move forward in the holiness the Torah truly demands; the holiness reached through self-examination and forgiveness; that is fulfilled in love of God and neighbor, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or place in the hierarchical order.

Reflection Questions:

  • Am I willing to forgive both the perpetrators and the victims of violence?
  • In what areas of life do I find myself judgmental?

* This reflection is from Everything is Grace: Reflections for Lent 2016, now available for purchase and download from the Pax Christi USA Store online.

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