Daily Reflection
March 10th, 2008

Howie Kalb, S.J.

Jesuit Community
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In today’s first reading, two elders, who double as judges, attempt to seduce the innocent Susanna. Being Joachim’s wife, she refuses their advances and cries out for help. When her protectors arrive, the lecherous old men drowned out her pleas for justice. In the presence of a crowd of witnesses, the two elders lied accusing her of having sexual relations with a handsome young man who had been hiding in the bushes. Because of their senior status and nobility they are believed by the crowd and Susanna is unanimously condemned to be stoned to death. She proclaims her innocence but is totally ignored until “the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel” believes her and comes to her defense.

Daniel begins by requesting to interrogate the two men separately. His simple question is to ask the judges for their description of the location where the young man had sexual relations with Susanna. Since the judges gave different accounts concerning the tree under which the adultery took place, they condemn themselves to their fate. Susanna is exonerated. The life of another innocent person condemned to capitol punishment is spared.

In our Gospel, Jesus is confronted by the authorities seeking his opinion on how a woman taken in the act of adultery should be punished. The Law is explicit that anyone guilty of adultery should be stoned to death. But Jesus simply asks, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, all those present walk away in disgrace. Since Jesus, doesn’t believe that capitol punishment is the solution for curbing adultery he said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Isn’t it amazing that Jesus believes that with his help some sinners condemned to death are capable of rehabilitation?

And yet, how many people still believe the best way to save lives is by taking a life? And the most contradictory aspect of this conviction is the fact that authorities and courts of law here in Nebraska are still struggling to decide what is a “legal” yet most “humane way” of putting a condemned person to death. Do you think that all of the states will ever do away with capitol punishment as so many other civilized countries have done?

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