Readings: Daniel 13:1-9. 15-17. 19-30. 33-62; John 8:1-11
"If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7)
Artists have not always been fair to Susanna. For example, the seventeenth-century Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens has Susanna apparently smiling as the two elders attempt to climb into her private space. The Venetian artist Tintoretto depicts her as vain, so preoccupied by her reflection in a mirror that she fails to see the elders leering at her from behind a wall. What has become of the virtuous and innocent woman of today's first reading?
We see the elders' lust give way to something that is even, if anything, worse: threats, and then the most malicious false witness found in the Old Testament. The people believe them. How could they question the word of such respectable men? Only the courageous intervention and the wisdom of the young Daniel lead eventually to justice being done.
In today's Gospel reading, there is only one person without sin in the Temple of Jerusalem, and in him the accused woman meets mercy and not condemnation. She is given a second chance: "'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus, 'go away and don't sin any more.'" This comes from the merciful heart of God, revealed in Christ. And we are far from that heart when we join with others in throwing the stone of condemnation. Lent is a time to remember that we are all sinners, called to a mercy worthy of Christ.
Father, grant us purity of life and compassion of heart. May we be free from our tendency to judge and condemn our neighbour, remembering that judgement belongs to you alone. May we learn to forgive, as we ourselves have been forgiven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.