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Monday, fifth week of Lent

March 10, 2008

Blessed Monday!
Father of love, source of all blessings,
help us to pass from our old life of sin to the new life of grace.
Prepare us for the glory of Your Kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 (Susanna vindicated of charges of adultery)
Psalm 23 “Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me”
+John 8:1-11 (the woman caught in the act of adultery)

It’s a lot easier to pass judgment on another person than it is to subdue your own sinful nature.

Then again, the easy way out often costs much more in the long run.
“Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). (The good news is that your innocence will too)

That’s a lesson found in both of today’s stories. The old men who lusted after Susanna tried to make her pay for their depravity. Rather than do battle with their own lust, they “suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to Heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments” (Daniel 13: 9). “They were ashamed to reveal their lustful desire to have her” (Daniel 13:11). Even when circumstances forced them to admit their sin to each other, when they could have taken advantage of this light to help each other fight for chastity, they instead spurred each other on in pursuit of sin. When Susanna courageously denied them the sin of adultery, they persisted in the sin of perjury. It cost them their lives.

The Scribes and Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus tried to make Him pay for their jealousy (of Him). They planned to “kill two birds with one stone”, as it were, to devise an excuse to kill Jesus as well as the woman. Jesus, like Daniel, turned judgment back on the heads of the accusers. “Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her” (John 8:11). Only after all had drifted away in self-accusation did He turn His mercy upon the woman. “Has no one condemned you?…Nor do I condemn you. You may go. But from now on, avoid this sin” (John 8:10, 11).

Of all the sinners who stood around Jesus in the temple area that morning, only the woman caught in the act of adultery went home forgiven and strengthened for the battle against temptation. She was the only one who hadn’t taken the easy way out, who hadn’t even accused the man with whom she was caught committing adultery! (even though Leviticus 20:10 & Deuteronomy 22:22 require that both partners in the act suffer the same consequences)

Jesus had come to save all of them, all of us. He had come at daybreak, arising as the “Sun of Justice with its healing rays” (Malachi 3:20). He had come from the Mount of Olives–symbolic of the Oil of Catechumens (made from olive oil) with which we are anointed in Baptism as athletes about to wrestle with the devil. It makes us more limber and helps us to slip out of our enemy’s grasp. This oil is also a sign of healing (see Luke 10:30-37) and cleansing (as we see in the story of Susanna, when she asked her maids to bring her oil and soap for her bath, Daniel 13:17), that we may be healed and cleansed from sin.

To receive this healing and strengthening, we, like the adulterous woman, need to stop, examine our own hearts, and bring our brokenness and weakness to Jesus. He will not condemn us. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). He will further guard our hearts with the warning, “From now on, avoid this sin” (John 8:11), that we may be alert for the battle against temptation when it recurs.

May we use the graces of our baptismal anointing to win the victory over sin that Christ (literally “the Anointed”) has claimed for us–instead of taking the easy way out.

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