They bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. Everyone knows her destiny: be stoned to death according to what’s written in the law. No one talks about the adulterous man involved. As always happens in a machista society, the woman gets condemned and the man walks. The challenge to Jesus is head-on: «In the law, Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you got to say?».
Jesus doesn’t support such social hypocrisy fed by male arrogance. Such sentencing to death doesn’t come from God. With admirable simplicity and audacity, he brings in truth, justice and compassion all together in the judgment of the adulterous woman: «Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her».
The accusers go away shamefaced. They know that they are the ones most responsible for the adulteries committed in that society. Then Jesus directs himself to the woman who has just escaped execution and with great tenderness and respect, he tells her: «Neither do I condemn you». Then he encourages her to change her forgiveness into a starting point for a new life: «Go away, and from this moment sin no more».
That’s how Jesus is. Finally there existed in the world someone who hasn’t let himself be conditioned by any oppressive law or power. Someone free and magnanimous who never hated or condemned, never returned evil for evil. In his defense and his forgiveness of this adulterous woman there is more truth and justice than in our resentful demands and condemnations.
We Christians haven’t yet been capable of extracting all the consequences enclosed in Jesus’ liberating action in the face of this woman’s oppression. Working from a Church that is directed and inspired mostly by men, we don’t get it right as far as being conscious of all the injustices that women keep suffering in all areas of life. One theologian spoke a few years ago about «the revolution ignored» by Christianity.
What’s for sure is that, twenty centuries later, in countries supposedly of Christian roots, we keep living in a society where the woman is frequently unable to move freely without fear of a man. Rape, physical abuse, humiliation aren’t imaginary things. On the contrary, they constitute perhaps the most deeply rooted violence and the one that generates the most suffering.
Doesn’t the suffering of women need to echo more strongly and more concretely in our celebrations, and have a more important place in our work of social conscience-raising? But, above all, don’t we need to be closer to each oppressed woman in order to denounce abuses, offer intelligent defense and effective protection?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf