Casting Stones

Today’s Gospel reading is St. John’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman who had been caught in adultery. It is a story familiar to all of us. The scribes and Pharisees bring the adulterous woman before Jesus. They are prepared to stone her, in accordance with the law of Moses. They ask Jesus what he thinks they should do, hoping, as they often do, to trip him up – to force him to choose between promoting a violation of the law and watching the woman die.

Jesus makes a single statement. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the scribes and Pharisees walk away, leaving no one to stone the woman.

We are very quick to judge each other. Oh, we don’t put people in the middle of a circle and throw stones at them until they bleed to death. But we very much set ourselves up as the judge of who is or is not in a sinful state and deserving of punishment. You hear it all the time. Judgements about who is worthy enough to be called a Catholic or to receive Communion. Judgements that certain people should just leave the Church and not be part of the assembly.

I’m not saying there is not a place for fraternal correction and for encouraging and aiding each other to live in greater conformity to Jesus’ commands. But we would all do well to look at bit more at our own sins and a bit less at the sins of others. In the secular version of Jesus’ statement to the scribes and Pharisees, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”