Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent – Years A and B – Jn 8:1-11
Today’s readings present us with two women who are accused of adultery who are about to be put to death. In the first reading, from the Book of Daniel, Susanna is unjustly accused of that crime and, although her situation was quite precarious, God protected His beloved daughter who had kept the Law and cried out to Him in her distress. Yet, the woman in the Gospel is in a different situation: she’s actually guilty of the crime she’s been accused of. She hasn’t kept the law, and she doesn’t cry out to God, at least not with words that have been recorded for us.
We’re struck by the contrasts we find between the main characters here. On one hand, we have the scribes and Pharisees, who drag this poor woman in front of everyone, fully intending to kill her, which they could have done without even getting Jesus involved, and yet they bring her to Christ in order, as John tells us, “to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.” Saint Augustine comments that they were angry at Christ’s meekness and gentleness, so they wanted to prove that He wasn’t just, that He wouldn’t follow the Law.
There are two things we can remark: first, we see how dangerous it is to let ourselves become embittered and angry. The scribes and the Pharisees were the ones who supposedly loved God and followed Him most closely, but in their rage they were willing even to use the woman’s life as a tool to get what they wanted. Blessed Joseph Kentenich, the founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, said that “there is no more dangerous creature on the face of the earth than a bitter priest.” “There is no more dangerous creature on the face of the earth than a bitter priest.” And, lest we forget, Kentenich spent three years in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. If the corruption of the best is the worst, then the bitterness and anger of those who are supposed to give themselves to God entirely is particularly terrible and sad. We know how to avoid this bitterness: by talking with Jesus, and by talking with those people God has put into our lives to guide us, our superiors and our directors. God’s will can be difficult, but that doesn’t make it any less loveable.
Likewise, we’re reminded that we must focus on getting our own souls to heaven. We can’t measure ourselves against what others do or don’t do. In a different sermon, Saint Augustine has a rather powerful line: he writes: “But men [and women] are hopeless creatures and the less they concentrate on their own sins the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves they are ready to accuse others.” “But men [and women] are hopeless creatures and the less they concentrate on their own sins the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves they are ready to accuse others.”
On the other hand, we find a great deal of hope in Christ’s words to the woman. Augustine summarizes that encounter beautifully by saying simply: “The two were left alone: the wretched woman and Mercy.” The scribes and Pharisees were forced to look inward and see their imperfections, something they had refused to acknowledge. Rather than turn to Christ, they simply walked away. The woman, on the other hand, having seen her sinfulness, doesn’t find condemnation, or even a rebuke, but rather salvation, much more than she could have even hoped to find. As we struggle against our own sinfulness, we are reminded of the words of Saint John Vianney: “The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, he already knows that you will sin again, yet he still forgives you. How great is the love of our God: he even forces himself to forget the future, so that he can grant us his forgiveness!” Our encounter with the merciful God should fill us, not with despair, but with hope.
Today, through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, let us ask for the grace to truly embrace God’s will, and, in recognizing our own sinfulness, to also recognize Christ’s mercy.
 St. Augustine, Sermon 19, 2-3: CCL 41, 252-254. See the Office of Readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
 St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 33 (John 7:40-8:11), 6.
 Cited in the Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI proclaiming a Year for Priests on the 150th Anniversary of the “Dies Natalis” of the Curé of Ars.