Gospel Reflections

5th Sunday of Lent

John 8:1-11

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Katy Webster

Published: April 07, 2019

Read John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming... Read More…


This bit of John’s Gospel raises several questions.  Who is this woman?  Where did she come from?  With whom was she?  How did the Pharisees and Scribes find her?  Why is she so silent?  Is she really as passive as she seems?  Did Jesus know her?  Did he know about her?  

We do not know who this woman is.  We do not know from where she came.  We do not know with whom she was.  We do not know how the Pharisees and Scribes found her.  We can speculate on her silence and passivity.  Jesus does not seem to know her or about her.   What we do know beyond a question of doubt is that she is suffering.  She is being accused of a transgression which according to the law of the Pharisees and Scribes carried the penalty of death by stoning, which was to say she was to be tortured to death.  

As long as the Pharisees and the Scribes are on the scene, she is an object: dragged into the Temple, accused before everyone and exposed as a challenge thrown to Jesus to judge her according to the Judaic law.  The scene is brutally violent.

All of a sudden, the energy of the scene changes.  Jesus ignores the whole lot of them, and starts writing on the ground.  When he stands up for the second time, he has a statement to make: “Whoever is blameless, has no sin, throw the first stone.”  He goes back to the marks in the dirt.
 
Once Jesus is alone with the woman, he addresses her.  Right there you have a transgression of the law.  Men and women who were not married could not speak to each other.  Jesus persists and asks the woman, where everyone went.  “Did no one condemn you?” she replies “No.”  And the scene ends: “neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”
The Pharisees and Scribes brought the woman to be judged, and to judge Jesus.  Would he apply the law?  They wanted to trap him.  It was a case of sanctioned feminicide.  The woman is given no time or space to defend herself.  With a few gestures, silence and a single question, Jesus turns the judgment around to the accusers and judgers.  

The one word the woman speaks in this Gospel is:  no.  NO. This one little word sums up this whole Gospel:  No to laws that condemn to death because you are a woman.  No to accusations meant to berate, belittle, trap, condemn, humiliate and dehumanize.  No to feminicide institutionalized, and thus No to any feminicide.  No to objectifying and oppression of women.

In the end the Pharisees and Scribes were gathering the data they wanted to be able to condemn and eliminate Jesus, to keep their structures of power and privilege in place.  Were they successful?
 

 

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