Today in the Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees present Jesus with an adulterous woman, publicly shaming her and putting her sins on display. It would have been easy for Jesus to denounce the woman’s actions and make a statement about virtuous behavior.
Instead, he “bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.” I like to think that Jesus took a minute to pray before reacting to the situation. Rather than lashing out at the Pharisees with a jab about hypocrisy or denouncing the woman for her sins, Jesus reflected on God never tiring of forgiving us.
Jesus is against adultery as much as the next person, but he chose mercy over making a statement. He chose compassion over condemnation. Rather than winning the argument, he won a soul.
Jesus calls us to examine our own consciences. He puts us face-to-face with ourselves, challenging us to go and become people who are “without sin.” Knowing our own faults, we might ask ourselves, just as Pope Francis did, “Who am I to judge?”
We don’t change hearts through being right, making a point, or even by winning the argument. Hearts are changed through encountering a person first, not their inadequacies.
Allison Walter is the Policy Education Associate with NETWORK, a national catholic social justice lobby in Washington, DC. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2014.