Fifth Week of Lent

Monday, March 22, 2021

John 8:1–11

Friends, today’s Gospel presents the story of the woman caught in adultery, which is one of the clearest demonstrations of what René Girard called the scapegoat mechanism.

The scribes and Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery. The novelty of the Gospel is revealed in Jesus’ refusal to contribute to the energy of the gathering storm: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus directs the energy of scapegoating violence back toward the accusers. He unveils the dangerous secret that the unstable order of the society has been predicated upon scapegoating. The Church Fathers emphasized this point with a neat interpretive move: they imagined that Jesus was writing in the sand none other than the sins of those who were threatening the woman.

Then we see, at least in seminal form, the new order: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” The connection between Jesus and the woman is not the consequence of condemnation but rather the fruit of forgiveness offered and accepted.

Reflect: Reflect on the prevalence of scapegoating in con- temporary culture. Think especially about the times when you have been guilty of singling out an individual or some group as a scapegoat.

Previous Meditations

Would you like to receive these daily Gospel reflections in your inbox every morning?