Go Your Way, Do Not Sin
You remember Pope Francis making headline in 2015 for saying, “Who am I to judge?” Francis’s question occurred in an interview as he was returning from World Youth Day in Rio (2013). In a book by Andrea Tornielli on 12 Januray 2016, Pope Francis explained his comment. “On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” Francis told Tornielli. “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.” Yet the pontiff’s comment has been the subject of discussion for many, and a scandal for some. Has the Pope gone too far with his message of mercy? If Jesus went beyond the boundaries of the Jewish understanding of the Law, his vicar on earth has done well by echoing him.
Pope’s response reflected the attitude of Jesus to a woman caught in adultery. Our Lord said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin.” (John 8:11). The Scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5). There was a sinister intention behind the question. They thought it is tricky one. If Jesus was to endorse the stoning as per the Pharisaic understanding of the Mosaic Law, he would have been violating the Roman authority. Only the Roman imperial power had the authority to impose death penalty. On the other hand, if Jesus spared execution of the woman caught in adultery, he would violate the Mosaic Law, and that is how the hard hearted vigilantes wanted to find fault with Jesus. Whereas Jesus manifested the ‘mercy of the Father’. He, before answering the vigilantes, kept on writing in the soft soil, as if rewriting the Mosaic Law. The Scribes and the Pharisees understood Moses’ teaching as hard laws written on stone tablets. Therefore, they were rigid in their observance of the Law. But Jesus, the new Moses, wrote on the soft soil, as if fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel; “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). It was an invitation for all the self-righteous standing around with stones in their hands to look into their own hearts. Jesus said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7).
On this last weekend before the Holy Week, can you confidently say that your life is characterised by mercy, not legalism. It is easy to be self-righteous and be satisfied by giving up chocolate or similar little sacrifices during lent. But to be Christ-like, our life should be dominated by compassion, mercy and forgiveness. To err, even morally, is human; but to forgive is divine. At the same time we cannot be complacent about our human fallen-ness. What Jesus told the woman should resonate in our minds always; “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11).