The story of “Susanna and the Judgment of Daniel,” today’s Old Testament Reading Is one frequently illustrated in books about Scripture: Susanna, portrayed as a young woman “of great beauty,” somewhat curvaceous, with a fearful look, eyes cast upward, pleading for God’s help while skulking in the background two elderly men whose painted demeanors betrayed evil thoughts.
Susanna was condemned to death by the false story of two community “elders” who accused her of ”having lain” with a young man who conveniently had gotten away. In truth, the two men lusted after her, and when she refused them, they concocted the young man and her actions with him. She was then found guilty and condemned to death. Susanna cried out to God for rescue, proclaiming her innocence and fidelity to God and God’s Law.
Enter Daniel, at this writing a young man, in whom “the holy spirit of him” was stirred up. Daniel set a trap for the two liars: he questioned them individually, asking, “Under what kind of tree did Susanna and the young man lay?” When they each gave a different response, they were caught! Their wickedness was revealed. They were killed. Susanna was saved; and “From that day onwards, Daniel’s reputation stood high with the people.” Dan 13: 64.
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ proclamation that “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life.” Not surprisingly, the Pharisees took issue with Jesus’ claim for Himself. It comes at a point where Jesus is embarking on the kind of self-description that eventually gets him killed, and subsequently separates those who believe in Him and those who do not.
Daniel in his rescue of Susanna, blessed her as someone who believes in God; in the Gospel, Jesus is describing one aspect of belief in him as God, that of bringing light to the world, to those who will no longer walk in darkness.
These are the days leading up to the arrest and death of Jesus; in themselves, these are serious days. If in addition, we are experiencing our own days of suffering: wrongful accusations, unresolved relationships, feelings of disappointments, fears of economic peril, questions arise:
How do I receive these situations? Am I able to trust in God’s ultimate care and continue to call on his mercy? And even further: Am I willing to choose to be a “light of the world,” assuring that those who walk with me are in the “light” at least as much as I can control that?
I think of the saying: “Christianity is not for wimps!” No kidding.