The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2015, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net
When accusations are brought against you, how do you respond and where do you turn for help? The Book of Daniel tells the story of Susanna, a godly woman who loved God and his word. She was unjustly accused of adultery by two elder judges who had tried to seduce her. Since adultery was a serious offense punishable by stoning to death, the law of Moses required at least two witnesses, rather than one, to convict a person. Susanna knew she had no hope of clearing her good reputation and escaping death apart from God’s merciful intervention. Daniel tells us that she looked up to heaven and cried out to the Lord for his help (Daniel 13:35). The two elders who wanted to sin with her had done just the opposite – they hid themselves from God’s sight and they kept their secret sin hidden from the people as well. They brought false charges against her in revenge for her refusal to sin with them. God in his mercy heard the plea of Susanna and he punished the two elders for giving false witness.
Unjust accusations against Jesus
The Gospel accounts frequently describe how Jesus had to face unjust accusations made by the Pharisees, the ruling elders of Israel. They were upset with Jesus’ teaching and they wanted to discredit him in any way they could. They wanted to not only silence him, but to get rid of him because of his claim to speak with God’s authority. When a moral dilemma or difficult legal question arose, it was typical for the Jews to take the matter to a rabbi for a decision. The scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. John writes that they wanted to “test” Jesus on the issue of retribution so ” they might have some charge to bring against him” (John 8:6).
Jewish law treated adultery as a serious crime since it violated God’s ordinance and wreaked havoc on the stability of marriage and family life. It was one of the three gravest sins punishable by death. If Jesus said the woman must be pardoned, he would be accused of breaking the law of Moses. If he said the woman must be stoned, he would lose his reputation for being the merciful friend of sinners.
Jesus then does something quite unexpected – he begins to write in the sand. The word for “writing” which is used here in the Gospel text has a literal meaning “to write down a record against someone” (for another example see Job 13:26). Perhaps Jesus was writing down a list of the sins of the accusers standing before him. Jesus now turns the challenge towards his accusers. In effect he says: Go ahead and stone her! But let the man who is without sin be the first to cast a stone. The Lord leaves the matter to their own consciences.
Pardon, restoration, and new life
When the adulterous woman is left alone with Jesus, he both expresses mercy and he strongly exhorts her to not sin again. The scribes wished to condemn, Jesus wished to forgive and to restore the sinner to health. His challenge involved a choice – either to go back to her former way of sin and death or to reach out to God’s offer of forgiveness, restoration, and new life in his kingdom of peace and righteousness. Jesus gave her pardon and a new start on life. God’s grace enables us to confront our sin for what it is – unfaithfulness to God, and to turn back to God with a repentant heart and a thankful spirit for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Do you know the joy of repentance and a clean conscience?
“God our Father, we find it difficult to come to you, because our knowledge of you is imperfect. In our ignorance we have imagined you to be our enemy; we have wrongly thought that you take pleasure in punishing our sins; and we have foolishly conceived you to be a tyrant over human life. But since Jesus came among us, he has shown that you are loving, that you are on our side against all that stunts life, and that our resentment against you was groundless. So we come to you, asking you to forgive our past ignorance, and wanting to know more and more of you and your forgiving love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Saint Augustine)
The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2015. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE CULTURE OF DEATH
“The Lord heard her prayer. As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud.” Daniel 13:44-46
Susanna was “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” (Dn 13:2). “Her pious parents had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses” (Dn 13:3). Susanna was happily married to Joakim, a very rich man who was the most respected of all the Jews in Babylon (Dn 13:4). Susanna was blessed with children in her marriage (Dn 13:30). Susanna was a very holy, beautiful woman, a beloved daughter, faithful wife, and devoted mother.
Then two wicked judges tried to force her to commit adultery with them by threatening to falsely accuse her of adultery and condemn her to death, if she did not give in to them. Susanna, however, chose to remain pure, faithful, and holy, even though she would lose her life, good reputation, marriage, and family (Dn 13:23). This was not the first evil act these judges had committed. They had subverted justice by “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” (Dn 13:53). They had also sexually abused several other women (Dn 13:57).
The Lord saved Susanna’s life and reputation. He saved Susanna’s husband, parents, and children from being disgraced and traumatized. He stopped the judges’ subversion of justice and sexual abuse, which had gone on for years. The Lord transformed a perverted society by stirring up “the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel” (Dn 13:45).
We also need the Holy Spirit to be stirred up in us (see 2 Tm 1:6-7) and transform our culture of death into a civilization of life and love. Come, Holy Spirit this Lent, Easter, and Pentecost!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, cry out in my heart “Abba” (“Father”) (Gal 4:6).Promise: “Nor do I condemn you. You may go. But from now on, avoid this sin.” Jn 8:11 Praise: St. Toribio baptized and confirmed nearly a million people as bishop of Peru.
Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from February 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015.
Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 25, 2014.
The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements