Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62
John 8:1-11


This beautiful story, the scholars agree, did not originally belong in John’s gospel. It was an early ‘floating’ tradition that was pasted into various manuscripts and even into Luke’s gospel at one time. That attests to the power of the story: it was not allowed to float away. It is regarded as canonical and inspired, like the rest of the gospel. The dramatic power of the story is very impressive. At the end, as St Augustine remarked, we are left only with “misera et misericordia”: ‘the pitiable woman and Mercy.’

A few things that run through my mind today as I hear this story are: what was running through Jesus’s mind as he bent down to the level of the woman to write? Was he thinking of his own Mother? Remember, she didn’t have a ‘usual’ pregnancy!

Jesus is unwilling for this woman, regardless of her sins, to be used in the conspiracies against him. Jesus ensures the leaders cannot forfeit her life for a chance to dismantle him or frame him. How often do we pass through the news of innocent lives lost or destroyed by war, pure human greed or vanity as collateral damage?

Jesus also refuses to use this situation as a chance to enhance his popularity. The only characters in the story aware of Jesus’s final words are the woman and Jesus.

Unfortunately, the story comes to us without context. It could be fascinating to hear what happened next. Did the woman leave? Did she perhaps become a follower of Jesus? How did the people react to seeing this woman and Jesus alone or even later that day on the temple grounds? Well, all these questions are legitimate and ultimately unanswerable, aside from speculation. There is something powerful about this story as it is. It stands alone, just like Jesus and the woman, confronting us readers and forcing us to look inward as well.

Giltus Mathias CP is a Passionist Priest that lives at St.Brigids Retreat Marrickville.