The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel, which recalls the adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes in order to trick Him and bring charges against Him.
“The scribes and Pharisees place this question to have a reason to accuse Him,” the Pope explained. “If Jesus said ‘Yes, yes, go ahead with the stoning,' they would have told the people: ‘But this is your master who is so good...Look what he has done to this poor woman!’ And if Jesus said: ‘No, poor woman! Forgive her!’ they would have said ‘he does not fulfill the law.’"
However, Christ’s response is very different from what they expected. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus says in the Gospel. The reading goes on to mention that those present left one by one, “beginning with the elders.”
“We can see that in the bank of Heaven, these had a good ‘bank account’ against them,” the Pope observed.
Regarding Jesus’ words to the woman, the Pope said that they go beyond forgiveness. While not denying the grave sin that is adultery, Jesus does not condemn her with the law. “This is the mystery of the mercy of Jesus,” the Holy Father said. The forgiveness of God, he noted, is what blots out sins, but mercy is the way God forgives.
“Jesus could have said: ‘I forgive you. Go!’, like He said to the paralytic man that they brought to Him from the ceiling: ‘Your sins are forgiven!'"
Rather, the Pope explained, “Here He says: ‘Go in peace!’ Jesus goes beyond. He advises her to sin no more. Here the merciful attitude of Jesus can be seen: He defends the sinner from her enemies; He defends the sinner from a just condemnation. Also us, how many of us, maybe should be in hell, how many of us? And that is the just condemnation...and He forgives even more. How? With this mercy!”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis compared the mercy of God to the rising sun, that fills everything it touches with light: the light of love.
"God does not forgive with a decree, but with a caress, caressing our wounds from sin,” he said. “And thus Jesus becomes the confessor: he does not humiliate, he doesn’t say ‘What have you done, tell me! And when did you do it? How did you do it? And who did you do it with?’ No! ‘Go, go and from now on, sin no more!’ The mercy of God is great, and the mercy of Jesus is great. Forgiving us, caressing us!”