Monday 27 March 2023 5th week of Lent
Susanna and the two elders.
Psalm 22 If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’
Verity, Freedom, Justice and Sincerity are virtues we hear coming through the readings of today. Both Susanna accused by the elders, and the woman accused by the scribes and Pharisees have their dignity acknowledged, find their interior freedom, receive justice, and encounter sincerity, in the actions of God through Daniel and Jesus.
Verity, embodies integrity. Daniel protects Susanna’s integrity and highlights the lack of integrity in the two elders. Jesus points to the profound truth that we are all sinners and exposes the hypocrisy of the elders in their willingness to condemn the woman but not the man she was with. Jesus doesn’t pretend the woman has not sinned, but his compassion enables her to take up her life again with greater integrity. In this way Daniel and Jesus go into the deeper story behind the superficial pretence of the elders. This depth gives meaning to the lives of both women.
Both women find their Freedom as a result of their being in relationship with God. Susanna’s plight arouses God to stir Daniel to speak up, and the woman before Jesus meets in him the profound forgiveness and compassion of the Father. God is very close to these women; God accompanies them in their trial and understands their plight. The freedom they embrace is not just freedom from judgment but an inner freedom, accepting of self, open to and trusting of what God is offering them. Their personal liberation comes from their encounter with God. Daniel and Jesus act not out of fear but solely from love.
Daniel and Jesus have a deep sense of Justice that is founded in their own trusting relationship with God. They both have a strong sense of what is right relationship. Mary Ward said that Justice is evident in right relationships, in the search for equality, the protection of human rights and our valuing of human dignity.
Sincerity is concerned with our personal honesty and our maturity in our dealings with others. The connivance of the elders is neither honest or mature, giving way to blinded lust and the misuse of power. Daniel and Jesus both give the protagonists an opportunity to examine their interior life and to know themselves as God knows them. Jesus and Daniel confront them with their hidden motivations. In the case of the woman before Jesus the same is true, and she is freed by his sincerity with her. Sincerity calls us to live authenticity. True Sincerity requires us to match word and deed and to reflect our inner selves in our outer actions – “go and do not sin again”.
Each day as I come here for Mass and approach the stairs I am reminded of these virtues.
However, I have missed Felicity.
Initially I could not see this in the two stories. Perhaps the stories lead to Felicity rather than contain it. Living with Felicity calls us to embrace optimism and positivity, and one cannot get to the end of either story without a sense of having our spirits lifted and that the world a little more complete because God is just.