Reflection for March 30
Readings: Dan 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; Jn 8:1-11
In the readings today we have insight into both the mercy of God and the justice of God. In the first reading we hear about the two unjust judges and an innocent woman. The judges are shown to be rather vile individuals who are willing to use their office for wrongful and selfish reasons, even if it is at the expense of others. In this case not only did they seek to violate a beautiful woman, but they were willing to lie about her and allow her to be condemned to death in order to keep themselves from being found out.
Susanna, the innocent woman, has total faith in God. The Lord allowed her faith to be tested severely, even to the point of a false trial and being sentenced to death. Even in these circumstances, Susanna maintained her faith and God raised up a boy, Daniel (his name means “God is my judge”), to point out the lies against the innocent woman and convict the two judges of their heinous crime.
In this case, innocent blood was spared, and the people could rejoice that justice was accomplished. However, we all know this is not always the way God works. All we have to do is consider what happened to Jesus as well as the Prophets before Him and the Martyrs after Him. Perhaps the most blatant example of absolutely unjust shedding of innocent blood has to do with the more than one billion abortions that have been performed worldwide.
People wonder why God allows such injustices. In fact, many people, because of injustices or bad things happening, have walked away from God. When we look at the situation in the first reading, we are told that these two judges had been “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty.” Moreover, we are also told that these judges had violated a number of other women prior to their attempt to violate Susanna. So, while we can rejoice that justice was finally done, the other women who had been violated or the innocent victims had still been treated unjustly by these two unfortunate souls.
One way of considering this situation is found in 2 Peter 3:15 where St. Peter tells us that God’s forbearance is directed toward salvation. This is pretty irritating when we think about grave injustices, but it applies across the board. How many of us have done unjust things? How many of us have sinned mortally? If God zapped us at the moment we did something stupid, we would never have had the opportunity to repent and get our lives on the right track. Many people have spent years living in a very bad way. It was not just one or two offenses, but years of offending God and violating their own dignity, as well as the dignity of others, before these people have had conversions. How grateful, in these situations, we must be for God’s patience and forbearance.
At the same time, the enemy of our souls takes advantage of this situation to set a trap for those who are trying to live good lives. He plants the idea in our minds that if God is allowing these people to do things that are wrong, maybe we should start doing things that are wrong. This is a test of our faith. Will we continue to believe when we see God allowing evil? Will we continue on the path of righteousness when others are allowed to do bad things and not be punished for them?
It is certainly true that God is merciful, but it is also true that He is just. The Gospel reading today gives us insight into His mercy when He refuses to condemn the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, but He tells her clearly “from now on do not sin anymore.” The mercy of God is not simply about forgiving sin or not punishing someone for the evil they have done; God’s mercy is directed toward our repentance and conversion.
Another way of considering the question of why God allows these unjust people to continue in their injustice is that He is the ultimate Judge. People may think they are getting away with something, but every one of us will have to stand before God one day for judgment. We will all have to answer for what we have done or what we have failed to do. If we are repentant and confess our sins, we will not have to deal with those sins on Judgement Day. But, if we do not repent, we will have to answer to everything from which we have failed to repent. Remember the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16. The rich man received good things in his lifetime while Lazarus received what was bad. In the end, the rich man was in hell for his actions and omissions, but Lazarus was in Heaven. If God seems to allow evil for the moment, the time will come when these people will stand before God as their Judge.
The other way of considering this situation is from the point of view of the person who is treated unjustly. God brings good out of evil. Injustices hurt; sometimes they make us angry and bitter. This exposes some areas of vice within us. God wants us to he holy, that is, to overcome our weaknesses and grow in virtue. If, in the face of being treated unjustly, we can learn to put our anger aside and forgive, we grow in holiness. If, through being treated badly, we can set our pride aside and grow in humility, we are becoming more righteous. If we can practice charity toward those who have been uncharitable to us, we are developing into the children of God to which we have been called. In other words, God will use the bad, and even evil, situations to make us Saints.
The death of Jesus, the most unjust event in history, brought about our salvation. The death of the Martyrs made them Saints. The slaughter of the innocent babies brings them to Heaven. It is not simply “despite the evil” that we grow, but it is actually because of the evil that we can become Saints. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (Mt 5:44). This does not make a bad situation into a good one or change an unjust person into a just person, but it changes us and helps us, by putting our faith into action, to become the people God has called us to be.