Readings: Is 43:16-21; Ps 126:1-6; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah: ‘see, I am doing something new!’ Humans watch the new out of curiosity, alert for danger. The new thing that God is doing is calling us together, as Paul said in the second reading, so that we might be one ‘in Christ’.
Another facet of this newness is seen in today’s Gospel. Rather than more judgment, Jesus shows us a way of wisdom and compassion. Elsewhere it has been said, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’. You may prefer the quote attributed to Albert Einstein as a definition of insanity: ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’. Despite our almost burning need, we will not judge our way to a better world. The new way is old but easily forgotten: compassion and wisdom.
The Gospel shows the woman caught in adultery brought before Jesus. We may well ask, ‘what about the man?’ Jewish law states that the man and woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death (Lev 20:10). Sadly, patriarchy is not new. Patriarchy also undercuts God’s plan from Genesis 1 – men and women are created in God’s image. What Jesus does here is cast new light on this situation.
Jesus confronts the need for judgment by saying ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. The older people are the first to realise the import of Jesus’ words. Jesus does not ‘let her off’. He names the woman’s behaviour as sinful but he does not condemn her.
This powerful passage goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Through this reminder of wisdom and compassion we can echo the response from today’s psalm: The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.