Oh Susanna!

Today’s first reading (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17,19-30, 33-62 – NAB) and the Gospel (John 8:1-11 – NAB) are prime examples of the way women were treated in biblical times.  It was pretty brutal and for the most part, and rarely anyone stopped it.  Except Daniel and Jesus.

The first reading is about Susanna who is a devout Jewess and married to a powerful man.  Susanna takes her usual walk in a garden where she is followed by two unsavory associates of her husband.  As soon as she dismisses her maids she is approached by them:
“Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us; give in to our desire, and lie with us.  If you refuse, we will testify against you that you dismissed your maids because a young man was here with you.”

There it was:  the lie and the bribery.  And they nearly got away with it!  Because of their position of power, the two men were believed and Susanna was condemned to death.  Her husband is strangely silent through all this, so Susanna prays:

“O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be;
you 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.”

God hears her prayer and uses a young boy named Daniel, to intervene:
“I will have no part in the death of this woman.”  All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?”  He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel!  To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence?  Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Daniel questions Susanna’s accusers separately and their witness to the events are vastly different.  The lies bring them death – something they had hoped would be Susanna’s fate.
Today’s Gospel tells this story:
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, 
and all the people started coming to him, 
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman 
who had been caught in adultery 
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught 
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
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 8:1-11 (NAB)

This story is very familiar because of the line “Let the one among you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I seem to always get stuck on a little detail and that detail is Jesus writing on the ground.
Did He write the famous quote before He said it?  Maybe He wanted to see what it looked like before He opened His mouth?  Or did He write something more derogatory towards the woman’s accusers?
Or was it a silent prayer to the Father to give him patience with the knuckleheads he was surrounded by!

Leave a comment