This is perhaps one of the most tender encounters in all of the Gospels. We picture the uncomfortable scene of a woman brought by the Pharisees to Jesus. In the eyes of the crowd she is in disgrace. But Jesus diffuses a situation, shifting the focus away from the woman and writing in the dust. With this simple action he makes space for the woman. He makes a frightening situation safe for her. We will never know what he wrote. And this, for me, makes the encounter all the more tender.
The sense of tenderness and safety is echoed so clearly in Psalm 22, today’s responsorial Psalm. There are so many words of comfort:
Jesus then stands before the woman as an embodiment of all of these words.
As I reflect on the story I find myself wondering where I stand. Do I stand with the crowd? Do I stand with Jesus? Do I stand with the woman? Do I stand with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees?
Although I’d like to imagine myself always standing with Jesus and the woman, I need to acknowledge those times when judgment looms large for me. Lent gives us the chance to look again at our assumptions and judgments.
How can you make a safe space for another?