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Shame, Shame!

April 3, Fifth Sunday of Lent
Daily Readings: Reading I Isaiah 43:16-21, Reading II Philippians 3:8-14, Gospel John 8:1-11

“Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle” (John 8:3).

I recall a popular TV show based on a best-selling novel in which one of the central characters, a woman from a prominent family, was stripped of her clothes, her hair was shaved, and she was forced to march through the streets. While onlookers looked on, someone walked alongside her, striking a bell and repeatedly shouting, "Shame, shame!" She was publicly disgraced as a punishment.

A woman was humiliated in front of Jesus in the gospel. The scribes and Pharisees were there to embarrass Jesus, expecting that he would make a poor choice regarding the woman. Instead, why don't they band together and bring her to the authorities? What was the point of getting her to Jesus? Why should she have to stand in the middle of the temple teaching? It appeared to be an attempt to humiliate both of them and put them on the spot. I can't imagine what the woman was going through at that moment.

We tend to do this at times: shame people. Spanking your child in front of strangers, will tease a friend about her weight problems. She was yelling at a subordinate in front of her co-workers, disturbing the store by berating a cashier or bagger who had made an unintentional error. Sure, the woman did wrong and deserved to be punished, but what good does it do to shame others? Do we become heroes as a result of it? Does it give us the impression that we're on the right track? Does it give us a good impression?

It's all too easy to shame others on social media, whether or not they've done anything wrong. Splice a video, upload it to the internet, and it will go viral, making the individual appear to be a monster. Netizens will voice their opinions. There will be slurs and insults. Memes will appear. Does it enable a person to change or encourage him to repent and make amends? Is it also OK to make people feel bad by revealing their past and using it against them?

Perhaps it's time for us to stop shaming others, particularly those who have done wrong but are repentant or had no idea what they were doing was wrong. We delegate the imposition of punishment or sentencing to authorities or courts. Perhaps we could remind them that they made a mistake, show them how it affected others, and explain why they should not do it again.

At home, reprimand your child in private. Do positive reinforcement rather than direct attention to the negative behavior. Encourage a buddy with health difficulties to exercise by doing physical activities such as dancing, biking, or walking around the village. Instead of lashing out or ranting on social media, go to the authorities and report any misconduct.

Lord, please help me not to humiliate others. Be our guide as we look for ways to help those who have strayed and inspire others to do the same. If they've done anything wrong, please guide me in choosing the best course of action. If shaming is the only way we have to call out wrongdoing or prove a point, then shame on us. Amen.


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.