Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Susanna and the Elders, by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656)

FIRST READING (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-63)
There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the law of Moses.

Joakim was very rich, and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honoured of them all.

In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: "Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people."

These men were frequently at Joakim's house, and all who had suits at law came to them. When the people departed at noon, Susanna would go into her husband's garden to walk.

The two elders used to see her every day, going in and walking about, and they began to desire her. And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot. And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her. She said to her maids, "Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe."

When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and said: "Look, the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us. If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away."

Susanna sighed deeply, and said, "I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands. I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord."

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her. And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. When the household servants heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her.

And when the elders told their tale, the servants were greatly ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.

The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death. They said before the people, "Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, who is the wife of Joakim." So they sent for her. And she came, with her parents, her children, and all her kindred.

But her family and friends and all who saw her wept.

Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head.And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord.

The elders said, "As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who had been hidden, came to her and lay with her.We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. We saw them embracing, but we could not hold the man, for he was too strong for us, and he opened the doors and dashed out. So we seized this woman and asked her who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify."

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, "O eternal God, who dost discern what is secret, who art aware of all things before they come to be, thou knowest that these men have borne false witness against me. And now I am to die! Yet I have done none of the things that they have wickedly invented against me!"

The Lord heard her cry.

And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; and he cried with a loud voice, "I am innocent of the blood of this woman."

All the people turned to him, and said, "What is this that you have said?"

Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said, "Are you such fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? Return to the place of judgment. For these men have borne false witness against her."

Then all the people returned in haste. And the elders said to him, "Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you that right."

And Daniel said to them, "Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them."

When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him, "You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free, though the Lord said, `Do not put to death an innocent and righteous person.' Now then, if you really saw her, tell me this: Under what tree did you see them being intimate with each other?" He answered, "Under a mastic tree."

And Daniel said, "Very well! You have lied against your own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two."

Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other. And he said to him, "You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart. This is how you both have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness. Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?" He answered, "Under an evergreen oak."

And Daniel said to him, "Very well! You also have lied against your own head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to saw you in two, that he may destroy you both."

Then all the assembly shouted loudly and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. And they rose against the two elders, for out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; and they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbour; acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was saved that day.

GOSPEL (John 8: 12-20)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true."

Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me."

They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?"

Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also."

These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

I am hemmed in on every side
(Word of Life Community)

Temptation, Testimony & Truth
(Tom Purcell, Creighton University)

The Lost Heroine of the Old Testament
(Fr Patrick Henry Reardon.)
PART 1       PART 2      PART 3

Susanna, wass falsely accused by two corrupt evil men who wanted to have their way with her.  Though they were powerful men and elders in the community, Susanna remained chaste.  In order to protect themselves, they falsely accused her and condemned her to death.

Though all seemed lost. Surrounded by the powers of evil and darkness, Susanna surrendered to God, knowing herself to be innocent.

God stirred Daniel’s spirit, who demanded a thorough examination of the evidence.  Daniel made himself vulnerable to the hostility of these powerful men, calling the judges and elders fools.  He made himself vulnerable in order to bring justice to the innocent.

The story of Susanna, at this point in Lent, should remind us of another false accusation. 
The Lord Jesus, the sinless Lamb, allowed himself to be falsely accused and convicted by evil men.

Because who of us are as innocent as Susanna or as courageous as Daniel, willing to suffer to protect the innocent.  Most likely, we are more like the corrupt judges, or the Pharisees pointing their fingers at the Lord.  But the Lord lays down his life willingly, out of his great love for us, and his desire that we be with him in eternity.

During these final weeks of Lent, we do well to enter into some serious prayer, asking the Lord to shine his light of truth into the deepest, darkest, most unloving parts of our hearts.  That our selfishness and fears may be illuminated and that in the moment of trial we may remain faithful.

Christ is the light.  To quote the final words of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical:

Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world.

May the light of Christ expel all darkness in our hearts for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

- Fr Kevin Estabrook

O God,
your inexhaustible grace enriches us with every blessing.
Give us the gift of abandoning our old life and becoming new,
to be ready for the glory of your heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.


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