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crime and punishment
"Nor do I condemn you. You may go." —John 8:11
Injustices are not merely thoughts or feelings; they are realities. Therefore, we must not only stop injustices to the poor but also begin to repair the damage inflicted. Punishing those guilty of injustice is part of repairing the evil effects of injustice. Punishment stops the wrongdoing. It may be part of leading wrongdoers to repentance. Punishing the unjust restores some peace and security to the community. It also restores the just values which have been skewed by injustices. So it would be unrealistic and unjust to let the adulteress in today's Gospel reading go unpunished. The Pharisees were not necessarily being vindictive when they planned to stone the adulteress. They were doing justice.
When Jesus let the adulteress go, He would have been unjust if He had not planned to provide justice for her victims and society in general. Jesus did this when He took her punishment upon Himself and was executed in her place on Calvary.
This may be why Jesus "bent down and started tracing on the ground with His finger" (Jn 8:6). He may have been deliberating whether to suffer the punishment for the adulteress' sins, our sins, and those of the whole world. As Jesus bent down, He may have thought of being knocked down and tortured. As He traced on the ground with His finger, He may have seen the nails being pounded through His hands and His dead body being buried in the ground. When Jesus stood up and let the adulteress, and us, go free and uncondemned (Jn 8:11), He condemned Himself to take on the punishment justly due to all the sinners of all times. Jesus condemned Himself to an unimaginably brutal death for justice and love of us.
Prayer: Jesus, I am Barabbas (see Mt 27:16ff). The cross was intended to punish me. Thank You for justifying me (see Rm 5:1).
Promise: "The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God Who saves those that hope in Him." —Dn 13:60
Praise: St. John urged, "Be driven by the love of God then, because Jesus Christ died for all."
Rescript: †Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 30, 2013
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