The story from Daniel is a powerful one, since we probably all have either been or know someone we suspect has been wrongfully accused of some transgression. It is like a great movie or short story, a morality tale, with several plot themes that attract us. We have a beautiful wife, a respected community leader, corrupt judges, and a hero. Perhaps if we place ourselves in the scene, if we contemplate being there as these events unfold, we can find parallels to our own lives.
In the First Act we see the judges plot to do this wrong. They know their actions are sinful and against their consciences, but they start down the path to gratifying themselves in spite of what they know God calls them to do. How often do we ignore the inner voice that calls us to the right path? How often do we turn our backs to God by not listening with an open heart?
Second Act – Susanna’s resistance to the temptation to commit adultery with the powerful judges is a courageous response to a dangerous situation. She would rather resist (and avoid sin) by adhering to her moral principles than submit to this act of betrayal. She understands that if she submits, she faces death for adultery, but if she resists, she will in all likelihood be raped. How strong are we in our convictions to follow our moral compass? Are we willing to stay with our principles even in the face of possible harm?
Third Act – we watch as, when unjustly accused and condemned based on the judges’ perjury, Susanna calls on the Lord to intercede and right the wrong. She realizes that public opinion is against her, but that ultimately she will be vindicated before the Lord. How easily can we set aside the injuries done to us personally to find solace in God’s judgment? How strong is our belief that God’s judgment is more important and lasting than the judgment of our neighbors?
Final Act – we see Daniel heroically resist this posse mentality of punish first and ask questions later. He has the courage to speak out and through his wisdom and clever investigative technique, he is able to reach the truth and turn the tables on the evil judges. The contrast between the lies told by the judges is even more apparent when one learns that a mastic tree is very small, while the oak is very large. How often do we jump to conclusions and decide on emotion, resisting the call to listen to evidence and to be calmer and more reasoned? How willing are we to speak out against injustice? How often do we take the part of the underrepresented in helping them find justice at the hands of the majority?
The psalm response resonates Susanna’s actions and her trust in the Lord. Unlike the judges, she was guided in right paths. She did not fear the evil about to be done to her, because she knew that the Lord was at her side. How comforted are we that God is with us at all times? How deeply do we feel God’s presence in times of stress? How willing are we to let go of our fear to trust in God?
Jesus chastises the Pharisees for judging based on appearances rather than discerning the truth. They see a man, but Jesus knows that He is the Son of God. He can verify that truth but they cannot, and they are unable to accept His statement that He is the light of the world as the truth that it is. The Pharisees quibble about the veracity of the statements but miss the big picture – Jesus is telling them of His divinity. How often do we judge by physical appearances and not by the underlying content of another’s character? How true is our trust in the Lord?
And so my prayer today is to ask for the grace to trust, to let go of fear, to follow the tiny voice inside me that always pulls me toward God.
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