Gospel reflection for April 3, 2022, Fifth Sunday of Lent

A cohort of Scribes, Pharisees and their disciples approach Jesus with what is more than a question and really looks more like a demand to act. A woman caught in the “very act of committing adultery” was brought to Jesus to hear his judgment. They remind Jesus of the proscription of the Law and certainly hoped that as they likely trapped her in her offense, they could likewise set-up Jesus into speaking against the Mosaic Law. We can imagine that the accusers are enjoying the possibility that they have wrangled Jesus into committing a sin against the Law himself so that they could have an excuse to have him judged as well. Of course, Jesus does not fall for this web and easily turns the tables on them yet again.

Jesus well knew their hubris and desire to set him up here. While often we think of this unfortunate woman, it is her accusers that we must consider during this Lenten Season.

To stone someone to death is an intentional act, one that took a bit of time and effort to accomplish. They would each throw a rock, in order of their seniority, until the accused was covered in a pile of the rocks slowly suffocating and being crushed to death. It was cruel and, by the time of Jesus, was fairly uncommon as the Romans forbade the practice.

As anxious as these men appear to be to stone this woman, it is Jesus who is really in their sights.

After considering the issue Jesus responds: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Bending down, Jesus scribbled on the ground, while the assembled crowd walked away, realizing that he had gotten the best of them.

The cancel culture and various forms of public shaming are the modern form of stoning. It is easy to anonymously embarrass someone on a social media platform. We think nothing of rejecting and disrespecting those with whom we disagree. We are quick to “throw stones” at those we have judged to be whatever it is that we think we are not. Yet, all of us carry our own secrets and bear our own sins. None of us could stand up to the scrutiny of the judgments that we make against others.

Much has been made of Pope Francis making the comment, “Who am I to judge?” and certainly, in light of this Gospel, each of us has to ask the same question.

Father Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.