March 27, 2023
by Tom Quinn
Creighton University-Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 251

Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62
Jeremiah 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
John 8:1-11

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We have seen in many paintings the defenseless figure of Joakim’s young wife, Susanna, cringing in her bath as two lascivious intruders approach her. They wished to force her to have sexual relations with them; if she did not, they told her that they would say they caught her with a young man. She would be stoned for adultery. Susanna screamed, and her maids came running. The vile old men did accuse her of adultery, but Daniel came forward to plead for Susanna; they were found to be lying and they were killed.

The story underlines what happened when the men “suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven; and did not keep in mind just judgements.” They paid the price for this. Susanna had, in fact, looked to heaven and prayed to God when she was accused. “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be.” Even though she may be put to death, she kept her faith. She depended on the Lord God.

With Susanna’s story in our hearts and minds, the responsorial psalm is not only appropriate, but comforting. Psalm 23 is likely the most familiar to most of us. We hear it in so many contexts. Often it is read at funerals, or at prayer services when we as a congregation are threatened. Whenever we “walk in the dark valley, we fear no evil; for you are by our side.” God guides us, protects us, provides for us, treats us with honor and kindness every day of our lives. We are assured that we can walk anywhere and at any time with the inner peace of the Lord. God is there by our side and on our side. Only goodness and kindness will follow us.

The thread of today’s readings leads us from harsh justice for those who put themselves above the law of God to comforting words for all of us sinful people who experience the peace of God in the face of adversity, and even death. The verse before the gospel (Ez 33) reminds us that God “takes no pleasure in the death of a wicked man, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.” These words give us a chance to explore God’s love and compassion for us as sinners. God would rather that we turn away from sin and live. He reminds us to be reasonable and compassionate in every situation.

The gospel (Jn 8:1-11): Jesus descended from the Mt. Of Olives and encountered a group of Pharisees leading a woman, who no doubt, was terrified; she had been “caught” in adultery. The law of Moses stated that she should be stoned to death. The crowd confronted Jesus. They asked him, "Should we stone this woman?” Jesus bent down and wrote in the dust as he paused. “Let the one among you who is without sin throw a stone at her.” No one came forth; none was sinless. They all slipped away, leaving the woman with Jesus. Jesus compassionately said to her, “go, and do not sin anymore.” Why would Jesus be so lenient? Jesus saw only a sinner accused by other sinners. His gentle but firm admonition to sin no more was his compassionate way of telling her to change her life. She had met Jesus, who wished not her death, but rather, that she be converted to a new way, and live.

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