A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
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 to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Good News Reflection:
Have you ever been accused unmercifully? Whether we have been rightly reprimanded (like the woman found in adultery in today’s Gospel reading) or falsely accused (like Susanna in the first reading), we feel terribly invalidated when we have to endure condemnation without forgiveness.
Feeling remorseful for a genuine sin does not make it easier to accept the harsh reactions of others, so we defend ourselves rather than admit our guilt. We want to protect ourselves from a crushing sense of shame, so we try to rationalize away our sins.
Does this really work though? No, only mercy can protect us. Only mercy can validate our worth. Without it, we try to manipulate people into liking us and approving of us and affirming us. The more we sin, the more desperate we become for other people’s approval. And the more desperate we become, the less remorse we feel for what we’ve done wrong, because remorse is a feeling that says we deserve disapproval.
When we’re falsely accused, we feel empty and invalidated because the truth has been misjudged and we’re at the mercy of others’ wrong opinions of us. They’re rejecting us and it’s totally unfair. We hunger for their affirmation, and if we don’t receive it, we defend ourselves and offend them. We convert our innocence into selfishness and pride and unloving behavior.
To fill the emptiness and heal the wound, we need to realize that we’ve been forgiven by the mercy of God. The Sacrament of Confession gives us audible proof of this mercy. And we must understand that it’s only God’s opinion of us that really matters. Even if others refuse to give us mercy, if we know that we have God’s mercy, we will have the peace and sense of personal value that we need.
No one can validate us or heal us like God can. He alone loves us no matter what we do. Mercifully, when we deserve punishment, Our Father says: “I do not condemn you, because My Son took your punishment for you. I love you. Go on with your life and sin no more, but be assured that I will always love you, even if you sin this way again.”
God has more mercy to give us than we can imagine. Meditate on this and open yourself to his steadfast, merciful love. He wants to free you from the need to be validated and healed by people.
This truth will free you to love others even when they sin against you. With Jesus, tell the Father: “I do not condemn them. Please grant them your forgiveness even if they do not ask for it.”
We forgive others not because they repent (some never will), but because God has been merciful to us. As we have received mercy from him, we become empowered to share his mercy with others.