The woman in today’s gospel was caught committing adultery. In line with the Law of Moses she must be put to death. This was a cruel but acceptable way for removing sin by the Jewish society. People who were witnesses to the adultery used it to set a trap for Jesus. Their idea was simple: Moses was the highest authority and nobody could undermine his Law; on the other hand Jesus was called “a friend of sinners”. So, whatever Jesus decides his career is finished; he might be accused of rejecting this unquestionable law or he might lose the admiration of the common people.
Nowadays there are two quite common attitudes. One of them we can call “hyper-critical”. People with this attitude have an inclination to only see the flaws in others. They are quick to criticise everything and everyone. Only they themselves seem to be flawless, good and wise people. The second attitude is the complete opposite; such people find it easy to justify every evil, every sin, every flaw. They can use anything to explain somebody’s bad behaviour or bad temper: unlucky childhood, bad life experience, tiredness.
These two attitudes are useless when it comes to improving somebody’s life. The first one doesn’t give further chance; the second attitude takes away somebody’s responsibility for his or her life.
Let’s look carefully at how Jesus deals with this particular situation. Firstly, he doesn’t dispute the Law of Moses. Jesus sets a challenge: “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. This is a very clear directive for the right person to start the execution. Jesus doesn’t reject the Law; he makes the sentence impossible to carry out. Secondly Jesus doesn’t try to justify the woman for obvious reasons: she had committed the sin and now there is no excuse, no explanation, no justification for it. Jesus doesn’t condemn her; but at the same time he clearly identifies the problem: “Go away and don’t sin any more”. There is not a single word about forgiveness, because it presupposes the sinner’s contrition. This woman faced a real threat in her life as a result of her sin. But she was given another chance to be responsible for her life.
Today’s gospel shows us the real Christian attitude towards other people: understanding for somebody’s weakness combined with truth about sin. First of all we should apply this rule to ourselves.