Sisters in Scripture
Mondays of Lent - March 30    03/30/2020

 
Remember at the beginning when I said these Monday readings were just too good not to be used? Well, here's yet another. We started with women and children: the child slave of Naaman's wife, the widow of Zarapheth, went to a child again with the Royal Official and his son, and today we go back to women-in spades.
 
 
The Text
The Gospel story of the women caught in adultery is well known but the story of Susanna from the Book of Daniel is barely known by most. Susanna's story does not appear, in fact, in many bibles, as it is part of the Deutero-Canonical or Apocryphal books, or sections of books. These are left out of Protestant translations or added at the end of those Bibles because they were not written in Hebrew. The story of Susanna is chosen for the First Reading because it so closely parallels the Gospel.

Both stories follow the same plot based upon…

The Tryst
In the Book of Daniel, the tryst involving Susanna is complete fabrication, the false accusation of an innocent victim. In the Gospel of John, the tryst is interrupted but assumed to be real and the woman is assumed to be complicit. In each case, a sexual encounter is at the center where the woman involved is captured, accused, and threatened with death. What about the man? It is important to note that Mosaic law called for the same penalty of death for the man as for the woman. (Lev. 2:10, Dt. 22:22) The fact that the man in each case is not on the scene, charged--even, seemingly, of interest, speaks eloquently to the cultural reality that while the law treated the man and the woman with equanimity, culture often did not.

Mosaic law also required two witnesses for an accusation. In both of these stories, the witnesses are the same as the ones setting up…
 
The Trap
Susanna rightly and immediately identifies that she is caught "I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned. "If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power."  As the two elders in Susanna plotted, so did the pharisees in the gospel story. Again, the text makes their intent clear, "They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him." They were planning that Jesus, whom they often taunted for being a "friend of sinners," would say the woman was not guilty. Then he would be the guilty one, and could be charged with breaking the Mosaic Law. If perchance he agreed that she was guilty, he would be complicit in her death and put in jeopardy with the Romans who alone could impose the death penalty. In both of these stories the woman is merely a pawn. For the elders, she is the object of their desire; for the pharisees, she a tool to entrap Jesus, the one who is really on trial.

Both Daniel and Jesus, however, take on the accusers and give the plot…

The Twist

The setting for Susanna is in Babylon during the Exile. Daniel has risen to influence much like Joseph had in Egypt, by virtue of character and his ability to interpret dreams. He sees through the evil plot, separates the accusers and catches them in their lie. Jesus, too, knows what is in the hearts of the accusers. His response upholds Mosaic law but by qualifying it that the first stone be cast by "the one without sin," he reveals the sinful condition within their hearts. They walk away one by one leaving Jesus and the woman alone. He is both tender, "Neither do I condemn you," and firm, "Sin no more."

So, the moral of the story is…
 


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Mondays of Lent - March 23rd    3/23/2020


 
There are marvelous, countless trails in northwest Arkansas. Among the most beautiful is one connecting Crystal Bridges to Compton Gardens and the small town square of Bentonville. It winds through wooded hills, along streams, and over foot bridges with whimsical sculptures along the way. This time of year there are shoots cropping through the dried leaves, heralding the spring stirring in the earth beneath. A few weeks ago, my friend and I and her dog, Bandit, were at a turn-around point when we happened on a lovely stone bench, beautifully crafted, thoughtfully placed, and inviting pause. So we did. It was only then that I noted the plaque at the foot of the bench. It was a local Master Scout project. We wondered at the story behind this compassionate gift and could not help but be inspired by such kindness from one so young, who recognized and honored the unique and painful loss of grieving parents.
 
This is where today's Gospel goes--to the love of parent for child, and the fear every parent feels for the life of their child. In this story, a royal official comes to implore Jesus to come and heal his sick son. The fear-stricken father has traveled from Capernaum to Cana, a distance of about 20 miles, two days of walking. We can only imagine the anxiety that prompted him to take off in search of Jesus, and the thoughts that filled his mind as he hurried. We can only imagine his dismay when Jesus replied, speaking in terms of "you people." He further pleads, "come down before my son dies." Jesus gives a simple reply, "Go, your son lives." We are left to imagine again how he must have felt. His plan, his request was clear--come with me; my son's life depends on this--not I speak it from afar, now go.
 
Could he rejoice at the promise in Jesus' words or was he too stunned at Jesus' declining to come? The anxious father is left to consider what to do next. He could give in to his anxiety and further beg that Jesus come with him. Or he can accept the words of Jesus, turn, and return, trusting that Jesus is, indeed, as good as his word. 

That moment is our moment. We can remain paralyzed with anxiety and indecision or we can decide to move toward hope. If this experience of Covid-19 is about anything for me, it is about believing that we, like Jesus, with Jesus, can effect good for others, even from afar. Our Christian faith clearly teaches that. 

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Mondays of Lent - March 16th    03/16/2020


Luke 4:24-30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to [a]Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus cites two stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, that of Elisha and Naaman, the Syrian, and that of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Right after the temptation in the desert, Jesus returns to his hometown synagogue for his first public teaching and it starts out promising. "He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone” (vs. 1). They had their "eyes fixed on him” (vs. 20). But then something went terribly wrong. His words "filled them with rage" (vs. 28). They immediately looked for the nearest tree to string him up or, in this case, the nearest cliff off which to hurl him. No pharisees or scribes are behind this—just the words of Jesus himself, the stories he chose to tell. Maybe, we should take a look at those two stories. 
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Some Good News    3/9/2020
 
 Dear Friends, 

On the heels of disappointment in postponing the Seattle retreat comes an exciting invitation. I have been asked to come to Assisi in September to participate in the dialogue and offer a short panel presentation for WITH ONE ACCORD: Learning and Living the Feminine Dimension as Church. The event is designed as a colloquy of about 90 participants including bishops, clergy and lay. I am most honored and excited to be included in this gathering and have replied with an enthusiastic yes. 

The events of the last couple days and my most recent email to you bring to mind, of course, the coronavirus and Italy's current problems which are even more pronounced than those in Seattle. I can only hope and pray as do we all, that this emergency will have abated by then. I am proceeding with plans in that expectation. 

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How Then Shall We Pray?    3/9/2020
In response to the coronavirus breakout in the Seattle area, the Archdiocese of Seattle has cancelled all non-essential events for the month of March. As a minor problem in this larger scenario, cancellations include the March 21st retreat WITNESSES ON THE WAY, planned for Holy Cross Catholic Church in Lake Stevens, WA.

It is the hope of Fr. Jay DeFolco, pastor, Betsey Beckman, and I that this retreat will be offered in Lent of 2021.
We will keep you posted. 
 
It is the hope of Fr. Jay DeFolco, pastor, Betsey Beckman, and I that this retreat will be offered in Lent of 2021. 
 
Dear Friends

After Fr. Jay, Betsey, and I decided to postpone the retreat until next year, personal disappointment quickly gave way to a different kind of disappointment. 

What of Lent? I am fine with giving something up FOR Lent, but am I to give up Lent? 

And if we cannot gather in the usual way? I can fast from food, but can I fast from community?  

The question becomes: 
Lord, how then shall we pray? 

Over many Lents I have used the daily readings as stepping stones on my journey. My gift to my Seattle friends whom I, sadly, cannot join, and to all my readers, is MONDAYS OF LENT. Starting next Monday, March 16th, I will send a newsletter and post to my website, a meditation on the readings of that day. Like bread from the oven, this will be created as we go. Hopefully it will feed you as part of a changed but still real, Lenten journey.

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