April 4, 2022
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading offers us one of the most captivating, and perhaps infuriating, stories of the Bible – the story of Susanna. This is a tale that can offer us many points of reflection. Rather than offer you my own, I would like to refer you to this excellent article by Dr. Malka Zeiger Simkovich is a the Crown-Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and the director of their Catholic-Jewish Studies program.
Our Gospel for today picks of the themes of knowledge, truth and judgement we have found in Daniel.
Jesus in facing mounting harassment and criticism from those threatened by his message. In today’s passage, a group of Pharisees engages in a verbal duel with Jesus:
The Pharisees said to him,
“You testify on your own behalf,
so your testimony cannot be verified.”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified,
because I know where I came from and where I am going.
But you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone.
Jesus makes it clear that such mental gymnastics, devoid of heart and spirit, are nothing but a journey in darkness:
Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
We’ve all met people who want to make faith into a mental Rubik’s cube. But deep faith will never fit into blocks and clever twists. Deep faith releases us from the need to have everything fit – from the futile imagination that we are in control of anything but our power to love.
As we pray with the little pieces of Susanna, Pharisees, and wicked elders we might discover in our own lives, let’s ask for the courage and grace to relax into the Light that Jesus offers us today.
Poetry: Peter Quince at the Clavier – Wallace Stevens
Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the selfsame sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.
Music is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what I feel,
Here in this room, desiring you,
Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
Is music. It is like the strain
Waked in the elders by Susanna:
Of a green evening, clear and warm,
She bathed in her still garden, while
The red-eyed elders, watching, felt
The basses of their beings throb
In witching chords, and their thin blood
Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna.
In the green water, clear and warm,
The touch of springs,
For so much melody.
Upon the bank, she stood
In the cool
Of spent emotions.
She felt, among the leaves,
Of old devotions.
She walked upon the grass,
The winds were like her maids,
On timid feet,
Fetching her woven scarves,
A breath upon her hand
Muted the night.
A cymbal crashed,
And roaring horns.
Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
Came her attendant Byzantines.
They wondered why Susanna cried
Against the elders by her side;
And as they whispered, the refrain
Was like a willow swept by rain.
Anon, their lamps’ uplifted flame
Revealed Susanna and her shame.
And then, the simpering Byzantines
Fled, with a noise like tambourines.
Beauty is momentary in the mind—
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.
The body dies; the body’s beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting.
So maidens die, to the auroral
Celebration of a maiden’s choral.
Susanna’s music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death’s ironic scraping.
Now, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise.
Music: Bach: Prelude in C Major, BWV 846, The Well-Tempered Clavier