The first Reading from Isaiah 43. 16 – 21. is a wonderful, cheerful announcement to lift our hearts and lead us into the richness of today’s liturgy! “See, I am doing a new deed, even now, it comes to light, can you not see it? I am making a road in the wilderness.” We are invited to respond to God’s call, to reflect on its implications for our lives. These are words of promise, words of comfort. How can I discern the new way? Do I have the desire to search for it, to follow it and so find a way through the wilderness places in my life! Then I can sing praise with the Psalmist, “What marvels the Lord has done for us, indeed we were glad.”
Upon reading today’s Gospel story, I wondered how that woman was feeling? I’m sure she did not feel the comfort of the words from the first reading. I was trying to imagine myself being dragged into a public space, surrounded by jeering, judgemental people! She must have been terrified, shamed, angry – (where is the man?) she could not commit adultery on her own! How isolated she must have felt, surrounded by the religious leaders of the time: they judged her, found her guilty and were preparing to stone her to death! She knew that nobody would speak for her or defend her.
These Religious Leaders were also prepared to use this woman to test Jesus’s fidelity to the Mosaic law, and to boast of their own faithfulness: I wonder was there even one among them who reflected on their actions? These Religious Leaders never heard about pastoral care! It is easy for us to pass judgement on people from this distance, so perhaps we need to question ourselves on how we relate to each other, how we respect the dignity of others.
Jesus made a road through the wilderness the woman was experiencing. He did this by respecting her dignity. He did not accuse or confront the Pharisees either; he simply commented for anyone who could hear; “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him/her be the first to throw a stone at her!” One can imagine the delight of this woman; she went away having escaped a brutal death and was encouraged to travel into a future full of hope. Jesus incarnated the Words of Scripture: “No need to recall the past, see I am doing a new thing.”
Cora McCullagh, OP