You have been summoned!
In our litigious society, a summons can be a scary thing. The first thing I thought of when my jury duty summons arrived is how can I get out of this? However, we have a civil duty to serve, so off I went to the courthouse this past Monday. Having never served before, I was curious as to the whole legal process. I arrived early and found my seat in the large room full of quiet people. Following the instructional phase of the process we were all asked to complete a Juror Information Questionnaire. One question made me reflect on this weekend's Gospel.
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.” John 8:1-11
This impromptu public "trial" by the scribes and Pharisees is more than it appears. The real intent of the scribes and Pharisees is to trap Jesus using a seemingly clear cut case. The question they ask Jesus hints at their motives. "Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Instead of being compassionately guided by the law they are manipulating it for their own purposes. In their minds Jesus will have to break the law of Moses or contradict His own teachings. Jesus directs his response back at them. "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Now the scribes and Pharisees are being tested. They must examine their own sinful hearts. Convicted by what they find each individual turns and shamefully walks away.
Back to my Questionnaire. Here is the question that really got my attention. Would you have any problem following and applying the judge's instruction on the law? In reading this question I realized the magnitude of my responsibility and I felt somewhat inadequate. Because this was in the criminal division my mind raced to the ramifications of the potential decision we might asked to make. Then I began to wonder what if the questionnaire had asked Jesus' question. I certainly would not be able to cast a stone. I shifted in my chair and answered that I would follow the judge's instructions. Jesus calls us to do the same thing. We are to follow His example and let Him guide our living, compassionately and lovingly.
The clerk of the court returned to the jury selection room after 90 minutes. She announced, "All of the cases today are going to non-jury trials. You are free to go." The reaction in the room was audible. Relief and excitement rippled through the room. We gathered our belongings and headed for the door anxious to get back to our normal routines.
Imagine the relief in the adulterous woman as Jesus sets her free! You and I are set free by the same compassionate and loving judge. But we must always remember Jesus' final words to the woman. "Go, and from now on do not sin any more."
NOTE: In preparing this Weekly Journey I watched Jeff Cavins video explaining all of the weekly readings. It is fascinating. If you'd like to learn more about the context of this Gospel click here: