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WHAT RIGHT HAVE WE TO JUDGE?

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Lent

Dan. 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62 & Jn. 8:1-11

The two readings for today correspond perfectly: women accused of adultery are about to be stoned to death but, at the last moment, they are rescued by 'saviours' … Daniel and Jesus.

Judging and condemning others is a common sin. The woman who was caught by the scribes and Pharisees committing adultery in the Gospel was dragged before Jesus as they demanded that He determine her fate. They reminded Him that, according to the Law of Moses, she should be stoned. Jesus pondered their question for a moment and then gave an answer that has become a classic reply around the world, “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Those words stand as a constant reminder that you and I are not qualified to sit in judgement on our neighbour. This, of course, does not mean that we cannot participate in the judicial system of the community. That was not the matter at stake. These men were not interested in a legally constituted trial; they were members of a kangaroo court. Their concern was not to seek the truth or protect the moral well-being of society. At this very moment they could not have cared less for either. All they wanted to do was to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. And if this meant sacrificing the life of a woman, then that was a trivial matter for them.

The lesson Jesus is teaching us here is that the only way we can ever set ourselves as judge, jury and executioner of the moral character of another human being is first to have it fully established that we ourselves are totally without guilt. And who of us is without guilt? Jesus made her executioners see this and no wonder one by one they dropped their stones to the ground and quietly went away.

Yet despite our lack of qualification some of us still persist in sitting in judgement upon others. Why? It is simply because we do not love like Jesus and we are not prepared to give the sinner time to reform. We condemn and expect justice to be administered at once. Like Jesus we should forgive and try to help the sinner to reform their ways. Our attitude to the faults of others should be that of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Lord Jesus, may we always remember that we are all sinners and have no right to stand in judgement over others, because we do not know all the facts as You do.

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