Fifth Monday of Lent

Readings: Dn 13: 1-9, 15-17-19: 30, 33-62 / Ps 23: 1-6 / Jn:8: 1-11

Today’s Psalm is the beloved 23rd. The responsorial liturgical version repeats one line again and again, here in the King James Version of my upbringing: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” The metaphorical beauty of that language is literally appropriate as the shadow of death is creeping up on the women in today’s readings.

In the Daniel story, Susanna is wrongfully accused of wrongful behavior by two creepy judges who were trying to blackmail her into having a little wrongful behavior with them. Sensing herself doomed with either cooperation or refusal, Susanna proves wise and faithful: “it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord.” That sounds like someone walking into the shadow of death at the hands of these evil men without fear, her faith secure that God is with her.

Just as her conviction and execution seem assured, Daniel appears, in some commentaries said to be as young as twelve. Such a young person is surely expected to remain silent in the face of such dramatic events. Instead, Daniel steps out of the dark valley of silence, cries aloud, “I will have no part in the death of this woman,” catches the lechers in their lie in a scene worthy of a contemporary police procedural, and prevents a huge injustice.

Both Susanna and Daniel take to heart one of the most repeated reassurances in the scriptures: fear not. It would have been easier for Susanna to yield to the authority figures threatening her, easier for Daniel to remain silent when silence was surely expected. Neither yielded to fear.

Whether direct or modified, the following line is often attributed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” For the challenging times in which we live, recall that “God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel.” Just as Susanna’s life was on the line as she faced her fear, our lives are on the line when we remain silent about injustice around us. May God stir up the Holy Spirit within us to give us the strength to speak out against injustice. How can we be lacking in courage? The Lord is our Shepherd; we shall not want.

Doug Norton
Mathematics and Statistics