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Daily Reading and Meditation

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Daily Reading and Meditation

 Monday (March 27):  Go, and do not sin again

Scripture:  John 8:1-11

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning
he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he
sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought
a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the
midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in
the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone
such. What do you say about her?” 6 This they said to test him,
that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent
down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they
continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who
is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8
And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the
ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one,
beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman
standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman,
where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one,
Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not
sin again.”

Second Reading:  Daniel 13:1-6,15-23,28,35,44-49,63 (Deutero-canonical text)

1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2And
he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very
beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. 3Her parents were
righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the law of
Moses. 4Joakim was very rich, and had a spacious garden adjoining
his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the
most honored of them all. 5 In that year two elders from the
people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had
said: “Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were
judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” 6These men were
frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had suits at law came to
them.

15 Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went
in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the
garden, for it was very hot. 16And no one was there except the two
elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her… 19 When
the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and
said: 20″Look, the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we
are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us. 21If
you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with
you, and this was why you sent your maids away.” 22 Susanna sighed
deeply, and said, “I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this
thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape
your hands. 23 I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands,
rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord.” 24 Then Susanna
cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against
her…

28 The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her
husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to
have Susanna put to death…35And she, weeping, looked up toward
heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord… 44 The Lord heard her
cry. 45And as she was being led away to be put to death, God
aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; 46and he
cried with a loud voice, “I am innocent of the blood of this
woman.” 47 All the people turned to him, and said, “What is this
that you have said?” 48Taking his stand in the midst of them, he
said, “Are you such fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned
a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the
facts? 49Return to the place of judgment. For these men have borne
false witness against her.” …63 And Hilkiah and his wife praised
God for their daughter Susanna, and so did Joakim her husband and
all her kindred, because nothing shameful was found in her.

Meditation: When accusations are brought against you, how
do you respond and where do you turn for help? The Book of Daniel
tells the story of Susanna, a godly woman who loved God and his
word. She was unjustly accused of adultery by two elder judges who
had tried to seduce her. Since adultery was a serious offense
punishable by stoning to death, the law of Moses required at least
two witnesses, rather than one, to convict a person. Susanna knew
she had no hope of clearing her good reputation and escaping death
apart from God’s merciful intervention. Daniel tells us that she
looked up to heaven and cried out to the Lord for his help (Daniel
13:35). The two elders who wanted to sin with her had done just
the opposite – they hid themselves from God’s sight and they kept
their secret sin hidden from the people as well. They brought
false charges against her in revenge for her refusal to sin with
them. God in his mercy heard the plea of Susanna and he punished
the two elders for giving false witness.

Unjust accusations against Jesus
The Gospel accounts frequently describe how Jesus had to face
unjust accusations made by the Pharisees, the ruling elders of
Israel. They were upset with Jesus’ teaching and they wanted to
discredit him in any way they could. They wanted to not only
silence him, but to get rid of him because of his claim to speak
with God’s authority. When a moral dilemma or difficult legal
question arose, it was typical for the Jews to take the matter to
a rabbi for a decision. The scribes and the Pharisees brought to
Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. John
writes that they wanted to “test” Jesus on the issue of
retribution so ” they might have some charge to bring against him”
(John 8:6).

Jewish law treated adultery as a serious crime since it violated
God’s ordinance and wreaked havoc on the stability of marriage and
family life. It was one of the three gravest sins punishable by
death. If Jesus said the woman must be pardoned, he would be
accused of breaking the law of Moses. If he said the woman
must be stoned, he would lose his reputation for being the
merciful friend of sinners.

Jesus then does something quite unexpected – he begins to write
in the sand. The word for “writing” which is used here in the
Gospel text has a literal meaning “to write down a record against
someone” (for another example see Job 13:26). Perhaps Jesus was
writing down a list of the sins of the accusers standing before
him. Jesus now turns the challenge towards his accusers. In effect
he says: Go ahead and stone her! But let the man who is
without sin be the first to cast a stone.
The Lord leaves
the matter to their own consciences.

Pardon, restoration, and new life
When the adulterous woman is left alone with Jesus, he both
expresses mercy and he strongly exhorts her to not sin again. The
scribes wished to condemn, Jesus wished to forgive and to restore
the sinner to health. His challenge involved a choice – either to
go back to her former way of sin and death or to reach out to
God’s offer of forgiveness, restoration, and new life in his
kingdom of peace and righteousness. Jesus gave her pardon and a
new start on life. God’s grace enables us to confront our sin for
what it is – unfaithfulness to God, and to turn back to God with a
repentant heart and a thankful spirit for God’s mercy and
forgiveness. Do you know the joy of repentance and a clean
conscience?

“God our Father, we find it difficult to come to you, because our
knowledge of you is imperfect. In our ignorance we have imagined
you to be our enemy; we have wrongly thought that you take
pleasure in punishing our sins; and we have foolishly conceived
you to be a tyrant over human life. But since Jesus came among us,
he has shown that you are loving, that you are on our side against
all that stunts life, and that our resentment against you was
groundless. So we come to you, asking you to forgive our past
ignorance, and wanting to know more and more of you and your
forgiving love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Prayer of
Saint Augustine) ”

Psalm 23:1-6

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not
want;
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still
waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for
his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I
fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they
comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you
anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Aided by Christ’s grace,
by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“No one of us does anything good unless aided by Christ’s grace.
What we do badly comes from ourselves; what we do well, we do with
the help of God. Therefore, let us give thanks to God who made it
possible. And when we do well, let us not insult anyone who does
not act in the same way. Let us not extol ourselves above
such a person.” (excerpt from Commentary on
Psalm 93,15
)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:  copyright (c) 2023 Servants of the Word, source:  dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager.

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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