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First Monday of Passiontide

March 22, 2010

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)

Readings:
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)

When temptation becomes fierce, it’s easy to think that if we give in just this once,
everything will be fine. The pressure will be off, we’ll be able to regroup
& we can get on with life. This struggle is killing me! It’d be such a relief to just give in.
Are the consequences really worth the fight?

But once we’ve given in, the temptation is multiplied.
Not only does the initial temptation gain a stronger foothold,
but now we’re tempted to despair as well. I’ve already blown it.
I’m already damaged goods. I might as well just stop fighting entirely
& drain the bitter cup to its dregs before I die.
God doesn’t love me anymore. He can’t.

(we say, thinking not aright…)

Eternal life is worth fighting for.
It’s always worth fighting for, whether we are lily-white or black as soot.
The devil really doesn’t care whether we were initially guilty or innocent,
as long as he can kill us. “[W]hether the sheep be black or white, horned or no,
the wolf will devour them if he can.” (St. Frances de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life).
God does care if we’re guilty or innocent,
but He cares because He wants to rescue us from eternal death.
If we surrender to God, we will live, whether we are guilty or innocent.
He’s dying to save us.

Two judges of Israel trapped the virtuous Susanna, making her a pawn of their lust.
If she would not yield to them, they would condemn her to death.
And how could she defend herself when those authorized to judge her
had become corrupt themselves? But if she gave in to them, her soul would die.
And it’s quite likely that they would ultimately kill her body anyway.
Then they could truthfully accuse her of adultery in their hatred of her.
Lust breeds hatred, especially when it’s been indulged.
After Amnon, David’s son, had overpowered and violated his sister, Tamar
(whom he said he “loved”), he conceived an intense hatred of her,
and forcibly threw her out (see 2 Samuel 13:1-20).

Susanna groaned in the anguish of this struggle.
Despite certain death, she chose to surrender to God rather than to lust.
She shrieked, as the law had commanded that a woman do when attacked
(Deuteronomy 22:23-27), and as she was being led to her death, she cried out to God,
who inspired Daniel to expose the lie of her judges and rescue her.
Those who had accused her fell into their own trap (see Proverbs 11:6) and perished.
Had she given in to the devil, she would have died, both spiritually and physically.
She surrendered to God, kept her innocence, and lived.

The woman caught in adultery was already guilty, trapped not only by sin,
but by those who had caught her in the act
(possibly even by the one who had seduced her in the first place).
They brought her face to Face with God, agitating for her condemnation,
taking on the role of Satan (whose name literally means “accuser”).
But what they intended for evil, God used for good (see Genesis 50:20).

He exposed their evil.

“Let the man among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Deuteronomy 17:7 commands that at an execution, the witnesses of a crime
are to be the first to raise their hands against the accused.
The witnesses, then, who had rigged this crime as a trap for Jesus,
found themselves faced with their own sin.
They, who had also surrendered to evil
(if nothing else, they had failed to accuse her partner in crime,
as commanded by Leviticus 20:10 & Deuteronomy 22:22),
drifted away from God.

Only the woman remained, surrendered before the only One who could condemn her.
Jesus, whose death would pay for her forgiveness, turned to her.
“Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir.”
“Nor do I condemn you. You may go.” (John 8:10-11).
Despite her guilt, He rescued her from her human captors.
Then He freed her from sin.
Knowing that she would be tempted to despair, to wallow in the sin that had begrimed her,
He also gave her His Word as a guard to protect her from it.
“But from now on, avoid this sin” (John 8:10).

He loved her enough to hate her sin, to free and protect her not only from physical death,
but also from spiritual death as well.

When temptation first strikes, we are the virtuous Susanna,
trapped into either suffering innocently in this life for love of our Divine Bridegroom
or into surrendering to His enemy, who will kill our soul.

Once we have succumbed, we are the woman caught in adultery.
The very one who seduced us now accuses us before God
(see Job 1:6-11, 2:1-5, Revelation 12:10),
exposing our unfaithfulness in order to further tempt us to despair.
But he does so before the same God who promised to take us back,
before the God who commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2)
and then to pay her ransom when she betrayed him (Hosea 3:1),
all to give us a vivid portrayal of His extravagant mercy.

We can still surrender to God. He will give us life.

May we who have been loved so extravagantly,
surrender only to the One who gives us life.

Yours in holy surrender,

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