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zealots of the Law, has the courage to attest his virtue and to apply the Law by taking up the revenging stone? Their guilty conscience forbids it. They sneak away dumb and confounded.
Thou alone, kindest of Masters, hast the power of placing the mighty face to face with their iniquities, to make them feel their own shame, and recognize themselves more guilty than the weak woman they prosecute with Pharisaic justice!
History, indeed, tells us that depravity was then at its height in the Synagogue, even among those that outwardly professed the most scrupulous observance of the legal prescriptions. The word and example of Jesus were repulsed, if not despised by them. The evil was such that no remedy could stop it. Yet a little while and an order from Heaven will be executed by the Roman legions, and that godforsaken nation shall be made a warning forever to all impious people.
The woman now being left to herself, Jesus said to her: “Woman, where are those that accused thee? Hath man condemned thee?')
During this whole scene, the tenderness of
the Saviour is manifested even in His attitude. As long as the culprit is surrounded by her accusers and a crowd of curious people, He does not ask her a single question, He does not look at her, He even diverts the attention of the public from her. He thereby wishes to teach us how carefully Christian compassion must treat the humiliating faults of others. Moreover, He alone is without sin; He alone, therefore, according to the judgment rendered, is entitled to throw the first stone at her; yet He alone protects and He alone defends her ..... He, the eternal brightness and sanctity, facing this despised and dishonored woman, keeps silent. And if His ire is roused, it is against the more guilty who, lying to their conscience, accuse others, whilst they themselves are sinners. “The example of Jesus Christ 'proves to
says a contemporary writer, showing the injustice of our customs and our laws, "that, when we are in presence of two culprits guilty of the same crime, of whom one is set free and the other condemned, the indignation against the impunity of the one involuntarily provokes in us a sentiment of pity for the other. Thus in the name of the inost
just rigor that should attain the woman, do not absolve him who, as an excuse for his wrong, sets forward nothing but his own vicious inclination. The absolute, everlasting, and theoretic amnesty of adultery committed by men is one of the greatest scandals of justice."
Lord, the crowd of accusers, the Pharisees and hypocrites, have vanished from Thy presence as nightbirds before the light!
Now alone with the woman, Jesus speaks to her. Those in the highest stations, those morally and socially superior, should always stoop down to the little ones or the guilty ones, to lead them away from sin and to prepare them for a true repentance, that alone deserves pardon.
To save men, Providence wonderfully disposes things to bring about such happy encounters. Frequently the sinner finds everything prosperous around him; he has no thought of repentance; by estranging his friends, by their contempt and cruelty towards him, Jesus leads him to His feet. And it thus happens that when the world prosecutes a fault, the sinner finds an equitable judge and forgiveness.
"Hath no man condemned thee?”)
By these simple words, Thou, O Lord, wishest to gain this woman, to make her understand still better that to Thee alone she owes her deliverance, and that, after her example, the guilty women of all centuries, buried in shame and trampled under foot by men, have but to return to Thee, O God, Whose heart is open to them whenever they call on Thee. When Thou approachest, where will be the accusers?
Fear no longer, poor, contrite and humbled culprit! Lift up thy eyes to thy Redeemer, and from the source of thy tears, smile at the mercy of Jesus! He alone knows the facts and their excuses, the regrets and the secret good resolutions. He alone is merciful in His justice. Listen, then, to the sentence of the Master and meditate upon it with all the powers of gratitude and love!
"Neither will I condemn thee!"
Jesus has changed thy heart; thou art absolved before Heaven and earth, before the angels and all men of good will. Reading with attention in the pages of the Gospel and observing what takes place around us, we
have to confess: indeed, the judgments of earth are more severe than the judgments of Heaven. David recognized it when he said: “I am in great straits, but it is better that I should fall in the hands of the Lord (for His mercies are many) than into the hands of men.”*)
O blessed Christ, Thou showest Thy tender mercy above all to fallen and despised woman, and to her Thou sayest: “Neither will I condemn thee." Thus in a special manner Thou declarest Thyself to be her Saviour. She is before Thee, dumb and silenced by her accusers and judges. Frequently accused, she was always condemned without ever finding an advocate. All the burden of human faults fell upon her. And in spite of the vaunted XIXth century progress that same injustice is still upheld in the courts of some civilized countries. (cf. Code Napoleon.)
Poor, repenting, sinful woman, have recourse to God, seek his priest! He knows the frailty of human nature and sees difference in thy downfall and that of another. Judging thee alone and in the pre
*) II. Kings, XXIV. 14.