Susanna was lied about. She was completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The two men who were supposed to be pillars of their community were instead filled with lust and greed. They lied about her good nature and the people believed them. Even her husband doesn't stand up for her but believes the testimony of others. Only when the young man of God, Daniel, stands up for her does anyone even begin to believe that she might be innocent. Daniel believed her and in doing so saved her from a horrible death. Calumny. It's a sin we all seem to fall into these days. Gossip. Slander. A national past time. Yet, one that has plagued humanity from the beginning. "I am not my brother's keeper."
In the Gospel we see Jesus having a woman thrown at his feet. Unlike Susanna, this woman is evidently guilty. The men want to trap Jesus. If he says to stone her, the Romans who have outlawed this will kill Him. If He says not to stone her, He will be speaking against the Law of Moses and people will turn on Him. They don't expect His answer. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." That opens a whole can of worms, doesn't it? First off, how did these men happen to be in a place where this adultery was committed? Where were they if they were in the dark recesses where such sins were going on? What had they seen that they would have been able to testify against her? Better yet, what things were on each of their consciences that they were guilty of that had not been brought to the light of day?
Jesus looked past the sin to the person. He didn't see an adulteress before Him, even though there was no denying on her part that she was such. He saw a person made in the image of God. One who had fallen. Then He reminded all of us gathering around casting our own barbs of pride, do not throw a stone unless you are without sin. The Scriptures reminded us that all have fallen short of the glory of God, that all of those men had sinned except Christ. That means the only person there who was worthy of throwing a stone, was Jesus Himself. Instead of stones, He offers a hand. Instead of words of hate, He offers forgiveness. Instead of death, He offers her life. "Go forth and sin no more."
That's the key to this relationship we are in with Christ. It's not enough to simply say we are sorry. Not enough to simply go about our lives with faith and a confession, though all of that is necessary. It requires conversion. It requires changing who we are and how we do things. It requires listening as God says "I will be your God and you will be my people." Then again as He says to us, "This is how you are to act when we are in a relationship...." Then above all to watch Jesus model that in His actions. To see that to be in a relationship with God means to become like Christ. To offer life. To reach out our hands to the fallen and say I accept you, let me help you up.. but also to say 'Go forth and sin no more.' To look at the person behind all the baggage and say, Let me help you unload those burdens.
His servant and yours,
"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"
A reflection on the readings for Monday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary time: April 3rd, 2017