Reflection: Women were oppressed in Jesus’ time, too. How much longer will we stand by?
Journey with America’s editors as they reflect on Scripture, prayer, fasting and almsgiving both in written form and on “The Word” podcast. Find all the reflections and more Lent resources here.
A reading from the Gospel of John
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
“Things are not like they used to be” can be a convenient half-truth that we whisper to ourselves when we learn the sins of our history. Surely, women today are not as oppressed as they appear to be in today’s readings?
As we move through Lent, the church calls us to examine our own sins and the sins of our ancestors. Already in the third chapter of Genesis, immediately following the fall, we read that Adam “shall rule over” Eve. How long have men subjugated women?
The men who entrap Susanna lust after her before they falsely accuse her of adultery. In the Gospel, the men who bring the woman caught in adultery neglect to present the adulterous men who are just as guilty. How often do powerful men still get away with exploiting women? How often do we stand by and enable it?
Susanna cries out to God and names the men’s lies. And Daniel, stirred by the Holy Spirit, believes her and confronts the men who falsely accused her. And while the allegations may be accurate in the Gospel account, Jesus defends the woman caught in adultery. How often do we find fault in others without acknowledging fault in ourselves?
Daniel stood with Susanna and Jesus stood with the woman caught in adultery. With whom will we stand? When will we allow our hearts to be stirred by the Holy Spirit and dismantle the oppressive structures in our society?
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery, and he does not condemn us. But he challenges her, and he challenges us, to sin no more.
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