Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hope in Him

March 30, 2009

Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent

But Susanna cried aloud: “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.” The Lord heard her prayer. Daniel 13:42-44

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.” John 8:10-11


Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. Amen.


Two lessons in justice give us an opportunity to think ahead and contemplate the unjust accusers. In less than two weeks, our liturgical year will mark Good Friday and the execution of an innocent man. As we approach the cross, we can study the judgment on Susanna and the accused woman in John’s Gospel inform our piety and our actions.

Daniel comes forward to act in defense of Susanna in order to assure that “the innocent and the just” are not put to death. Just as the two old men lured Susanna into their trap, Daniel sets a trap for them, praising the accusers with his comments about “the prestige of old age. Daniel is then able to turn the tables and spring a trap on them as the two men testify about different details related to the tree in these stories.

Jesus is the advocate for the accused woman in the Gospel of John. He comes forward and also challenges those who charge her with adultery.

What does each story say to us today? There will be consequences if we bear false witness against an innocent person.

What does it mean? God saves those who place their hope in him.

What does it matter when these lessons can not come to bear on God’s only son? In our scripture reading from last Saturday, we heard Nicodemus come to the defense of Jesus in front of his peers. The converting Pharisee asked, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” However, his plea falls upon deaf ears, or at least upon the ears of people who do not want to hear any defense of Jesus of Nazareth.

Judas arises bearing false witness. Despite their attempts to avoid passing judgment, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate could not escape the trap that the crowd had set for them to condemn an innocent man and send Jesus to his death. No one stepped forward to be an advocate for Jesus once the wheels of execution were turning. Although Jesus was sent to testify to the truth, there is no one to testify to the truth on his behalf.

What does Good Friday matter if Jesus can not be saved like Susanna? Rather than escaping judgment and execution like the women in today’s reading, Jesus instead suffers and dies in order to bring us to the Easter Resurrection. Seen another way, Jesus’ death is one more way that God saves those who hope in Him. Jesus is the Daniel of Good Friday. We are the Susanna of Good Friday. From Gethsemane to Golgotha to the cross, Jesus becomes our advocate, suffering for our sins instead of allowing us to suffer and dies for our own actions. Just as the resurrection of Lazarus paved the way for the lessons of Easter, the forgiveness and mercy shown today to these two woman, also let us see our God as the true source of eternal salvation, mercy and hope.


God stirred up the spirit of a young boy names Daniel so he would come to the defense of Susanna. What is God stirring up your heart to do? Perhaps we can be strengthened in our resolve to oppose the death penalty by the results of similar efforts in New Mexico.

In a recent success for testifying for life, just a few weeks before Good Friday, the state of New Mexico became the latest state to outlaw the death penalty. According to a recent statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulated the bishops of New Mexico and other advocates on their successful efforts to repeal the death penalty there.

“The bishops of New Mexico and many others worked tirelessly to see New Mexico become a leader in turning away from the death penalty in our country,” said Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB.

On March 18, Governor Bill Richardson signed HB 285 into law making New Mexico the second state to repeal the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the use of the death penalty in 1976. In December 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation repealing the death penalty in that state. Fifteen states have now have laws banning the death penalty.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the USCCB, wrote to Governor Richardson on March 16, urging him to sign the legislation, saying it “would help begin building a culture of life in our country.”

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