Monday April 2, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Lent
Reading (Daniel 13:41c-62) Gospel (St. John 8:1-11)
The following homily was given at a home for the elderly.
In the reading today, we heard from the prophet Daniel that beautiful story about Susanna. Susanna was a beautiful woman who was innocent. She was upright. She prayed and trusted whole-heartedly in God, as we heard in the Scripture. And she was accused of adultery. These two old men were not actually Israelites; they had been made judges. They were considered elders of the people, but they were wicked old men, dirty old men. These old men lusted after Susanna; she was a very beautiful woman. When she was alone in the garden, they decided to rape her but she began to scream. They brought false witness against her and said that they caught her with a young man. Since they were both elders and judges of the people, the people believed them.
Then, we are told that God stirred up the Spirit in a young boy named Daniel. Daniel said, "I will have no part in this womanís death." Remember, the sentence for a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned to death. Thatís what the Pharisees were telling Jesus when they caught the woman in adultery in the Gospel. They brought her to Jesus and said, "This woman is supposed to be stoned according to the Law of Moses. What do you have to say about it?" We know also from the Jewish Law that wherever there are two or more witnesses, the testimony is considered to be truth. In other words, if one person comes up and says something and your story is entirely different, they wonít necessarily believe either one. But if there are two witnesses, then they would believe it because there are two people saying the same thing. So, here you have these two old men who had made up this story about Susanna, an innocent, God-fearing woman. They lied about what they were doing and decided to put her to death because she wouldnít give in to their desires. Yet, she would not back down. She was completely faithful to the Lord and she trusted in God. God, then, spared her life through this little boy, Daniel, who then became a great prophet many years later. At this point, he was just a young boy when the Holy Spirit filled his heart and showed him that this lady was indeed innocent. Everybody in the town, as we heard in the reading, rejoiced that God had spared innocent life that day.
There are a couple of lessons we need to learn in this. First of all: No matter what, we must always do what is right. In this particular case, this poor woman was stuck. These two men were judges. Daniel even pointed this out. He said, "Now your past sins have come back to you, because you did this to the daughters of Israel. They were afraid of you so they gave in to your desires, but this daughter of Judah would not give in." She chose death rather than to give in to their sin. So, we see that no matter what, we must always do what is right. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how much pressure there might be on us from other people or places, we must always do what is right.
Then, we see the way God works: God will always exonerate the innocent. In some cases, for instance when we look at the various saints, we see that He allowed some of them to be martyred. We think, sometimes, that as long as weíre doing what God wants us to do, He will completely free us. But the freedom He gives, sometimes, is complete freedom and not the kind of freedom we think of. So, the martyrs - they die for what is right. They are totally free then. They get to go straight to Heaven. The freedom God gives them is entirely different from a natural-level freedom.
In the first reading today, we heard about Susanna being freed because of her innocence. God turned the sentence around so that she was freed. She wasnít put to death, but instead, the truth came out and she was freed from the sentence these evil men had tried to place upon her. So God works. But the other thing to understand is that it is always at the last moment. Iím sure, because you have many years of life, that you can look back and see the way God has worked in your life over and over again. Once in a while, God will work long before itís necessary, but that is rare, isnít it? Usually, itís at the last minute. God wants us to trust. It is exactly what was said about Susanna. She trusted whole-heartedly in the Lord. That is what we have to do; we have to trust whole-heartedly in the Lord. That means right to the last minute. In our humanness, what we tend to do, when we see that it is not going our way, is try to do it ourselves. We think, "Well, God is not going to come through for me... I have to find another way." Susanna did not try to do it another way. I suppose we could say that she couldnít. But she did not try, she just trusted in the Lord. And the Lord freed her. The Lord provided for her needs.
He will do the same for us, as well. In all things, as long as we trust, God will provide. That is hard for us because most of us donít really trust God entirely. So, God keeps giving us more opportunities to practice that trust. When we can trust whole-heartedly in the Lord, we can be guaranteed that He will take care of everything. The saints tell us that; Our Lord tells us that; Our Lady has demonstrated that for us in her life. We see it happening over and over again. When we see the way God has worked in our own lives, we realize there is no reason for us to doubt; what we need instead is to trust. No matter what the circumstances; no matter how bad they might seem, we need to give it all to God and trust. He will push it, usually right to the last minute, then He will exonerate us. He will free us from whatever it is and He will provide for all of our needs, only if we are willing to trust.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.