Today at Mass we hear the story of Susanna. This passage from the book of Daniel presents us with a beautiful, God-fearing, law-observant, chaste, and innocent heroine. She falls victim to the lusts and lies of two thwarted and creepy old men. These two judges embody every sort of wickedness. The Scriptures tell us they lusted after Susanna: “They perverted their thinking, they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgement” (Dan 13:8-9). They condemn the innocent, free the guilty, intimidate and abuse women (Dan 13:53, 57). And as if that were not enough, the story shows how they perjure themselves in court trying to cover it all up. In short, they’re all they should avoid.
There’s something especially repulsive about wickedness in the aged and in persons of authority. Daniel’s rebuke—“How you have grown evil with age!” (Dan 13:52)—is not what’s supposed to happen. One among God’s chosen people should grow in virtue and wisdom, not vice and folly! But, alas, some do turn sour.
When this happens, God does not sit idly and let wickedness go. As Psalm 94 says, unjust judges cannot be God’s friends. Rather, he “turn[s] back their evil upon them and destroy[s] them for their wickedness. Surely the Lord our God will destroy them!” (Ps 94:23) The Lord avenges the innocent and punishes the unrepentant wicked. As he did with Susanna, God saves those who hope in him (Dan 13:60). Sometimes, as with today’s story, God’s saving action happens through the intervention of someone wise and just who calls out the falsehoods and injustices that threaten the innocent. In those cases, further harm can be prevented and justice accomplished.
But even in those other situations when the wicked seem to get away with their sins, God is active. He sees the suffering of the innocent and the guilt of the sinner. He’ll bring perverse men to judgment if they do not repent and amend their lives. What’s more, he protects, strengthens, and heals those who suffer unjustly. He draws close to them to save them. Because when he took on our flesh to save us from sin, he too was a victim of unjust judges.
Image: Carracci, Susanna and the Elders