Pope Francis on April 7, 2019, painted a picture of the scene from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John – the woman caught in adultery – and how it represents the conflict between legalism and mercy.
His remarks came before praying the noonday Angelus with the crowds of pilgrims from around the world gather in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father described how the woman’s offense quickly drew out two opposite attitudes. On the one hand, the Scribes and Pharisees were ready to enforce the law of Moses and stone her. On the other hand, Jesus presented a merciful approach.
In the scene, “are two opposite attitudes: that of the Scribes and Pharisees on one hand, and that of Jesus on the other; the former want to condemn the woman because they consider themselves guardians of the Law and of its faithful application,” Pope Francis explained. “Instead, Jesus wants to save her, because He personifies the mercy of God who, by forgiving, redeems and by reconciling, renews.
“Jesus’ interlocutors are closed in narrow legalism and want to lock the Son of God in their perspective of judgment and condemnation. However, He did not come into the world to judge and condemn, but rather to save and offer people a new life. And how does Jesus react in face of this test? First of all, He remains silent for a bit, and He bends down and writes with His finger on the ground as if to remind that God is the only Lawmaker and Judge, who wrote the Law on stone.”
Of course, Jesus makes the famous request that those who are without sin should throw the first stone…and slowly the crowd melts away, leaving just the woman and Jesus. He offers here forgiveness and mercy. And he invites her to sin no more.
“It’s an invitation that applies to each one of us: when Jesus forgives us He always opens a new way for us to go forward,” Francis concluded. “In this time of Lent, we are called to acknowledge ourselves sinners and to ask for God’s forgiveness. And forgiveness, in turn, while reconciling us and giving us peace, makes us begin again a renewed history. Every true conversion reaches out to a new future, to a new life, a beautiful life, a life free of sin, a generous life. Let us not be afraid to ask Jesus for forgiveness because He opens the door for us to this new life.”