By Fr. Jim Kelly SJ
“Justice: administration of what is just especially by the impartial judgement of conflicting claims”
Today’s Gospel reading from John about the woman caught in adultery has to do with justice. Some scribes and Pharisees bring a woman in front of the crowd and in front of Jesus and demand justice. She was caught “in the very act of adultery”. According to the Law, both religious and civil, “Moses commanded us to stone such women.”
Two things: First, they “make her stand before the people”. In doing so they have humiliated her and turned the crowd into a mob. Second, they have selected the offense. They want her judged without any mention of the man she was caught with “in the very act.” They do not want justice, they want blood.
So often, even today, people will say they want justice when in fact they are acting out of hatred, racism, sexism, anger, bigotry, or even a thirst for blood.
Jesus’ response is a good guide if we find ourselves caught up in such a situation. He steps back and pauses. In fact he seems to ignore the angry cries as he writes with his finger in the sand. Then: “Let anyone who is among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”
Recently, in a complicated situation, Canada’s Minister of Justice resigned from her position, saying that she had to be faithful to her ethics and to what is just. A couple of days ago the Prime Minister asked her to leave her Party’s caucus, because she had broken trust. Not to ask who was right or wrong, but how did you react to these things? Did you react as part of a mob, or out of bias or anger, or did you genuinely quieten yourself, and pause and reflect on what is truly right and just?
It matters a great deal. In a few days, on Passion Sunday and again on Good Friday, we will stand and hear the account of Jesus, an innocent man, being dragged before the crowd and the authorities to be judged. How do you react in such a situation?