We are reminded by today’s reading from John’s gospel that John, unlike the authors of the synoptic gospels, portrays Jesus in Jerusalem more than once. So here, a little more than a third of the way through John’s gospel, we see the scribes and Pharisees testing Jesus in the Temple to see if he agrees with them about how serious sin should be punished. It doesn’t occur to them that it takes two to commit the kind of adultery of which they accuse the woman whom they bring before Jesus for judgment. The man involved apparently escapes even being considered for punishment!

Every time I have read this gospel during the time of Pope Francis, I think about his “Who am I to judge?” comment about people with homosexual tendencies. It is as if the words of Jesus in this part of John were an inspiration to the Holy Father.

The challenging words from Jesus about who ought to throw the first stone stun the scribes and Pharisees. In response they just drift away from the scene, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus then has a personal conversation with her, and suggests that she repent of her sin, but he doesn’t mention punishment at all. In this, the only Lent of the Year of Mercy, are you and I ready to accept that kind of mercy from the Lord?

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.