Daniel 13:41-62 / John 8:12-20
People bring a sinner to Jesus; Jesus forgave the sinner.
These lines by an unknown poet strike a universal chord: "How I wish that there was some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our headaches . . .Could be dropped like a shaggy coat at the door, and never put on again." There is such a wonderful place, and it's located in the heart of Jesus. Jesus wasn't interested in what a person was, but in what a person might become. Today's reading is a classic example of this attitude of Jesus.
What is our attitude toward people: to be forgiving as Jesus was, or to be condemning as the Pharisees were? "Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see; That mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me." Alexander Pope, "The Universal Prayer"
The first reading is an addition from a later period to the Book of Daniel. Probably, Shushanna (Lily) stands for faithful Israel. And so, in the form of an allegorical tale the story comments on the faithfulness of the pious Jews to Yahweh, notwithstanding corruption among (some of) the leaders. This popular tale was a warning against adultery, false witnessing and abuse of power, and an appeal for faithfulness in faith and marriage. In any case, the false accusers of the innocents are condemned by themselves.
Jesus’ words are not unsubstantiated assertions by Jesus alone, for the Father bears witness to him by letting him do wonderful deeds. Just look at the words and actions of Jesus and you know that God stands behind all what he says and does.
It is true that the law of Moses stated that the penalty for adultery was death. The scribes and the Pharisees in today's gospel, however, seemed to enjoy the misery of the poor woman as they dragged her before Jesus. They were perverse in that they hoped to use her sad condition in order to trap Jesus. But our Lord would neither be trapped nor be a partner to their gloating self-righteousness.
It is not that our Lord condoned the sin of adultery or pretended that it was not evil. Rather Jesus revealed that he is a judge who extends mercy to the sinner in order to turn him away from sin. Our Lord knew what was in the woman's heart, and it must have been that he saw there the spark of repentance, which won his forgiveness. He told her to avoid the sin in the future as a sign of her repentance.
Susanna, in contrast to this woman, was falsely accused of adultery. Until Daniel appeared on the scene, all the people believed her guilty and condemned her to death. In her innocence she had trusted in God, and her trust was rewarded by acquittal.
Sometimes we are rightly accused by others because we do make mistakes; we do commit sins. Some people may even seem to enjoy our misery at the time. We must remember, however, that Jesus is the judge wishes to extend mercy to us, no matter what others may think about us, provided we show the spark of repentance. On the other hand, we are sometimes falsely accused, and in one way that can be an even more painful situation. It is then that we must turn to God, like Susanna, and put our trust in his power to vindicate us. In either case, it is how we stand in the sight of God that really counts.
Just and merciful God, you take pity even on sinners and you continue with them a dialogue of grace and hope. Help us never to condemn, never to give up on people, but to be patient, understanding and forgiving, together with you and Jesus, your Son, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.