Two women…One verdict
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
We are presented with two stories today, one that might be familiar to us and another that we might not have heard of before. One was accused falsely while the other was actually caught in the act. Though both stories play out differently, the end result remains the same.
From the prophet Daniel we read of the story about Susanna, a very beautiful and upright woman, but she fell victim to the desires and lust of two men in positions of authority. Because she refuse to give into their plot, they devised a plan that would eventually lead to her being put to death, perhaps by stoning. An innocent woman now stands before the face of death, but hope prevails, God hears her prayer and sets things aright. Through the prophet Daniel, Susanna is vindicated and the two elders were put to death. We draw a simple conclusion that the end result was a just one, but things will not be as simple once we move to the gospel.
From Johns gospel, we have the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The law is very clear, she ought to be stoned. Unlike Susanna this woman, who is unnamed, is actually guilty. Unlike the prophet from the first reading, Jesus doesn’t speak out with a righteous anger. He simply makes a statement, not a judgement. What results from this statement is something we weren’t immediately thinking about when we began reading this story. From this point on the woman is no longer the main character in the story, but rather the audience or in our case, the listener, you and I.
We are not out sins! And perhaps Jesus knew that clearly. Yes, we are a people who can often be hard hearted, stubborn, and even on occasion rather rash in our judgement, but we are also a people who are resilient in hope, strong is our ability to love and can be amazingly steadfast in our faithfulness. We are innately good for when God created us we were proclaimed good.
I doubt Susanna was recalling the words from the 23 chapter of today’s Psalm, nor do I think the woman from John’s gospel would have believed that even though she was staring death in the eye that day, that God was really at her side. For both these women, whether they knew it or not, the good shepherd was ever at their side. In Susanna’s case, the Lord gave her courage to speak against her accusers, and for the woman from the gospel, the Lord did not leave her side, which perhaps gave her the courage to stand before those who would judge her, even though she was being justly accused for what she did wrong.
For most of us our worse critics who are capable of judging us severely is ourselves, but when we do so, we must never doubt that God isn’t ready to forgive. We cannot exhaust the mercies of God! Though the Lenten call for conversion comes once a liturgical year, conversion and salvation happens day in and day out. God is always inviting us back again, always willing to give us a second, third or even a hundredth chance to make things right again. God is always willing to love, without any restrictions or conditions. The questions is, am I okay with that?
As you reflect on these words, I offer you the following hymn to help with your meditation on today’s readings
Title: God of Second Chances
Artist: David Haas
Album: God is Here
For a copy of this and other hymns for meditation, visit here