Monday April 7, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Fifth Week of Lent


Reading (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62)  Gospel (St. John 8:1-11)



In the first reading today, we see a very important lesson that we need to keep clearly in mind; that is, that with Susanna and her innocence, as she cries out to the Lord, God saves her, but we have to recognize that it was not until she had been thoroughly humiliated and condemned. She was actually on the way to her execution when God intervened. These two old men grabbed Susanna in her nakedness, and so she wound up being exposed to all of her neighbors as they probably would have taken her out of the garden in that shape, then she had to go through this whole trial which was a mockery, and then was condemned to death and was being taken away.


The important thing for us to understand in this is that most often God waits until the very last second. Susanna, for whatever reason, obviously needed some kind of spiritual purification in order to become perfect. She was already a very holy woman and these last points of humiliation would perfect her. And so God tested her in her trust; He allowed her to be completely humiliated so that there would be nothing left of any kind of self-love that might have been there. In doing this, she was able to turn to God with a pure heart, and God heard her prayer and spared her from the unjust sentence which these men had worked against her.


And so, for each one of us, we have to recognize that God is also going to work in similar ways, maybe not quite as humiliating as what Susanna had to endure, but nonetheless, He allows humiliations for us to purify us, He allows different trials to test us to see if we are going to be faithful. The important thing is to recognize that it is not until usually the very last second – or what from our perspective seems to be several minutes beyond the very last second! – before God is going to intervene because it would require no trust – or very little trust, anyway – if He were to intervene well before the last second. So He continues to push as we learn to trust.


But at the same time, we see the mercy of God in the Gospel reading. Susanna was perfectly innocent; the woman in the Gospel was not. I do not think there are any of us who can claim that we are perfectly innocent. Therefore, we need to learn from God’s mercy as Our Lord takes this woman who was actually caught in the act of adultery and refuses to condemn her, but rather forgives her and tells her simply to go and commit this sin no more. That is precisely what He says to each of us. He is calling us to repentance, to change our lives, to stop sinning, to become truly innocent like Susanna, to be purified, and to trust completely in God.




*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.