15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41-62
Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
How interesting it is to juxtapose the story of Susanna with the story of the adulterous woman. The contrast between the two women could not be more clear. Susanna is completely virtuous and guiltless, while the woman in John’s gospel is actually “caught in the act of adultery.” In other words, she is guilty according to the “law of Moses,” the very law that Susanna kept diligently. Yet, both are saved. Susanna is saved because of God’s fidelity and the adulterous women because of the mercy of God that Jesus extended to her. Both of these salvations give me hope. It is a comfort to trust that God will somehow honor my efforts to be faithful to him, to my wife, and to my children. It is equally comforting to know that my failures—and they are many—will not ultimately condemn me.
Still, Susanna’s accusers and their fate offer a warning to temper any false sense of security that we might get from reading of the mercy extended to the adulterous women. Two passages from the first reading leap out at me, both in reference to the elders: “they suppressed their consciences” and “how you have grown evil with age.” For them, deceit and hypocrisy had become ways of life. They had actually practiced alienation from God and this practice became hardened over time. If we do this enough and for long enough, we can cut ourselves off from that font of mercy experienced by the adulterous women.
Although I have not been sitting around lately plotting to defame
any women, I can see plenty of ways in my life that I “suppress my conscience”
and live with far less trust in God (in far more trivial circumstances)
than that exhibited by Susanna. Thankfully, the season of Lent, and
these readings, calls us back to fidelity to God—the Lord is my Shepherd,
as the psalmist says today. In a way, this seasonal refocusing helps
us to avoid “growing evil with age.” Indeed, this basic fidelity
and trusting in God makes it possible to recognize the mercy of Jesus when
we sin and gives us the courage to “sin no more.”
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