Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41-62
Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Today's readings seem to be about justice, imperfect judgments, and trusting God's loving kindness. They speak in answer to the sadness and anger in our world today. Probably at any time, but certainly now, with the United States at war in Iraq, the forces of hatred, anger, fear, anxiety, hostility, and blaming others pursue us, even as we try to stop for prayer and reflection. Meanwhile, I've been reading about the "spirituality of imperfection," and trying to pray over my own errors of judgment. Today's readings give us stories that, like all good stories, help us to know God's love for our imperfect selves.
First we have the reading from Daniel, which may not be in everyone's Bible anyway, as this is from "Chapter 13 of the Greek Version of Daniel," one of the "Apocryphal-Deuterocanonical Books." This long selection reads like an enjoyable detective story, with Daniel as an early entry in a long list of detectives in popular narratives, like Maigret, Nero Wolfe, Columbo, Inspector Morse, and characters on the TV show "Law and Order."
Aside from the good plot, the story tells us about the innocent Susanna's appeal to God, and what strikes me in this time of troubles is how happy the whole assembly is to know the truth. So we welcome justice done, truth discovered, "blessing God who saves those who hope in him." It's not only Susanna who is saved; we, who know our limitations and possible errors, get saved too.
Next, the beautiful 23rd Psalm has us sing about our trust in God, our Good Shepherd, our wise Leader, who saves us from taking the wrong path and preserves us from danger.
Then, from the Gospel of John, we hear again this story of the Woman Found in Adultery, and this time, the woman is guilty as charged. She has been dragged in front of Jesus as the educated community leaders want to "have some charge to bring against him." A tool of the scribes and Pharisees, a condemned criminal on the equivalent of Death Row, she doesn't ask for forgiveness. She couldn't expect forgiveness. But Jesus quietly reminds those educated community leaders that each of them is imperfect -- perhaps guilty of hatred and anger, perhaps of other errors of judgment. Giving a wonderful sign that they have truly heard what Jesus has said, they leave. Further, anytime this story is used in teaching morality, it's pointed out that Jesus does not say her sin is OK. He doesn't say she's forgiven. He says "Neither do I condemn you." He tells her to leave, like her accusers, and to amend her life.
I'm thinking of the anger and hostility, and maybe fear and anxiety
for their own status, felt by and maybe recognized by those scribes and
Pharisees. I'm thinking of how this sinful woman may have been feeling
hatred, anger, fear, anxiety, and hostility; she was probably blaming her
partner in sin. So later, after our narrative of Jesus's wisdom and
kindness ends, and after amending her life, the woman herself may have
"heard" Jesus, recognized His wisdom and loving kindness, and prayed for
forgiveness. And so we are saved.
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