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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

HOW MUST WE JUDGE (JOHN 8:1-11)

In Christianity, the way we judge must be done with the utmost care because Christ warned us that the manner by which we judge others is the way we shall be judged. The Gospel narrates that a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Christ to be judged by Him. The penalty for such a sin was death by stoning. 

If Christ said: "Stone her," He would have been showing justice in obeying the Law but would have gone against His mercy. If He said: "Do not stone her," He would have been showing mercy but not justice.

Christ wants us to judge both with justice and mercy, that we may also receive justice and mercy from Him. If we are judged simply with justice, we have no chance of being saved. It is because of Christ's mercy that we become deserving of what we do not deserve, that is, salvation.  But Christ will not show mercy to those who do not show mercy.

Christ showed justice in His judgment when He said: "Stone her," as the Law requires . This was the justice of the Old Testament. Then He added the justice of the New Testament: "But let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

This is judging with justice: That, before we see the faults of others, we must first see our own faults. Before we judge others, we just judge ourselves first; before we condemn others, we must learn how to condemn our own sins first. In Christianity, let the sinners be punished, but not by sinners: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. If you have sins, you have no right to cast any stone." And they all left without casting any stone. They put aside the Law to obey the New Law. 

This mob was fortunate because Christ explained to them His command on how to judge in a Christian way. Today, everyone is judging but no one is teaching how to judge in a Christian way. So everyone is judging without Christian justice and definitely without Christian mercy. 

To judge others well, we must first enter inside ourselves and see our faults, and then see the faults of others with great discretion, if we must judge with justice. He who judges not his own sins cannot judge others correctly.

The crowd learned from Christ: they entered into their own consciences, saw their faults and left without stoning the woman. They behaved with Christian justice.

When is our judgment with mercy? Let us hear it from Christ, Himself. After the Jews left, having judged her with justice, Christ looked at her and added mercy: "Neither will I condemn you." This woman was caught in the act of adultery, a crime punishable by death, and both the crowd and Christ let her go without even a reprimand. This is Christianity. Everything else is barbaric and pagan. 

But wait; "Neither will I condemn you if you go and sin no more." Christ surely taught the woman how to sin no more...which really is a short lesson. Condemnation is reserved for those who continue in their sin, to those who think God will save them in their last moment, to those who think that God will be forgiving even if they do not confess and repent of their sins. In summary, to judge with Christian justice and mercy is this: If the sinner goes and sins no more, then, like the crowd and like Christ, we must make no other demands. 

St. Thomas Aquinas

 

 

 

(updated 08-08-02)

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