As we arrive at this final Lenten Sunday Gospel of the season, we see how Jesus’ role has developed over these Sundays. When we began the season, Jesus was in some ways being acted upon. First he was tempted, then he was transformed on the mountain. For the last two weeks he’s been a teacher of parables, of fig trees and prodigal sons.
Now, he intervenes boldly in a public action against religious authorities. He successfully disarms those who would put to death a woman caught in adultery.
In doing so, Jesus reveals the wisdom of Thomas Merton’s comment that “an essential part of the good news is that spiritual weapons are stronger than material ones.” Jesus uses the weapons of truth, mercy and justice to overcome those who only have rocks and self-righteousness as their weapons. Whatever Jesus wrote on the ground had a big impact on disarming the scribes and Pharisees. It could be that he was writing the names and the sins of the woman’s accusers.
After 2000 years, Jesus doesn’t need any help in elevating his authority. But with a ridiculous and violent slap heard around the world last Sunday at the Oscars ceremony, Wil Smith did Jesus a big favor in showing such a big contrast between how Jesus chose to defend a woman and the way Smith and far too many others do. Jesus disarms violence and gives the woman the opportunity to act and to speak and to choose on her own. Smith, and other men like him, create violent situations with their toxic masculinity and do nothing to empower the women they are supposed to be defending. Even though his wife is a public figure in her 50s, we hear nothing from her in the midst of her husband’s outburst.
How has our faith developed over these last 5 weeks? Have we allowed God to act upon us, to transform us? Have we absorbed the wisdom teachings of Jesus in our lives? Are we ready to intervene, publicly if need be, to uphold the dignity of all human people, and to do so in peace and mercy and justice?