Susanna’s Message

…but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness.   Daniel 13:57

The sex scandal in the Catholic Church has captured headlines for many years.  When news of it first broke in 2002 (as depicted in the movie Spotlight), it caused great shock and awe in both Catholic congregations and across the globe.  Even today, details of the horrific crimes of abuse and cover-up are still being revealed as dioceses across the country are bringing to light the names of those priests and clergy members who were responsible in any way for causing pain and harm to its many victims. And as dioceses around the world continue to find scandal and cover-ups of their own.

This is the Church.  The one place where we should be able to go as a “safe space” for all.

But how can we when there is so much evidence to the contrary?

Today’s story in Daniel exists  in the Catholic biblical canon, but may also be found in the Apocrypha of many Protestant bibles.  In this story, we find, Susanna, a pure and pious spouse of a church patriarch, Joakim, being threatened by two corrupt elders who insist that Susanna succumb to their lustful desires or they will accuse her (falsely) of adultery with a young man and she will be sentenced to death.  She seemingly only has two options:  do as they wish and sleep with the two men, or die.

Enter Daniel.

Daniel sees through the two elders to the underlying truth.  He sees that their stories don’t add up, and he demands the two elders be separated to give their testimony.  And when they do, they each describe its events differently, which proves their guilt and Susanna’s innocence, and they are then put to death and Susanna escapes abuse and is free.

I can’t help but see some parallels in the story of the religious elders of ancient Israel and the hierarchy of the Church today.  Then, like now, corruption existed in religious settings.  Then, like now, it wasn’t in everybody and everywhere, but it was in some…and even one victim is one too many.

But there is hope.

Then, like now, more and more often details of the scandal are being brought to the light.  Then, like now, victims advocate groups and counselors rise to help those who have suffered.  Then, like now, people’s eyes were opened.  And while it stinks to feel as though we have to scrutinize the leaders of our churches (or our corporation or our country, etc. ), it’s a good reminder to me that the reason for that is because there is only one True Authority, one Truth we can trust in this world, or any world…and that is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

Though Susanna walked the earth many years before Jesus, like Jesus her heart was aligned with God, the Father.  This daughter of Judah, remains faithful to God in the midst of this little -known scandal,  just as many years later a little babe who is born in the “hill country” of Judah, called Bethlehem, remains faithful to God the Father to the point of death on a Cross.  Then He rises into New Life, breathing that Life into the very Church of today.

My footnotes tell me Susanna is a “type” of the Church.  (In biblical talk, a “type” is a foreshadowing of sorts–someone or some thing that parallels someone or some other thing that happens later in history). Like Susanna, we the Church, should not tolerate wickedness, neither outside her “walls,” nor within them.  Like Susanna, we the Church can overcome scandal.  We owe it to the thousands of victims who have suffered at the hands of it, and we owe it to Jesus who died because of it.  We need not fear it.  And we need not despair over it.  We need simply let the Light shine upon it, until the last stone is overturned.

Until then, we put our hope in the day when we, like Susanna’s husband and parents, can say with every confidence “praise God…because nothing shameful was found in her.”

Reflect:  Have I lost faith in God because of the wrongdoings of men?  What can I do to be like Daniel, and help victims of abuse (either in or outside the Church) in my area?  How can I deepen my faith in Jesus, so that when uncertain times fall upon me, I can still trust in his goodness and love?

Pray:  Lord, today we pray for all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of those they trusted, or through random violent attacks.  Help us to love one another, to understand one another and to have compassion and provide counsel for all those who suffer, but especially for those who suffer from abuse by church and religious leaders whom they trusted.  We will not tolerate that wickedness.  Empower us to continue shining your Light until the last stone is overturned.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

On Choosing Life

“Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19

When I was in ninth grade, I loved animals so much that I was sure I was going to be a veterinarian. I was lucky enough to have my parents steer me to a career exploration program where I got to “shadow” a veterinarian for three or four weeks so I could decide if this was indeed my future career. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.) Mostly what my fellow explorers and I observed were surgeries to neuter or spay dogs and cats.

One day in particular stands out to me from that experience. That day we were going to “spay a pregnant dog.” My ninth grade mind didn’t quite conceptualize what this meant, so I stood and observed the vet as he made an incision into the dog’s belly then reached in and pulled out the dog’s uterus (which was more akin to how I’d always envisioned an intestine would look). His pulling it out of the dog’s belly reminded me a bit of a magician’s scarf trick…it just kept coming and coming out of the dog. As he held it up, we could clearly what I can only describe as a “sausage-tube” of five puppies. You could see their fur, you could see their little paws, you could see their closed eyes. And I thought to myself what exactly are we doing here? What’s he going to do with those puppies? And after holding the sausage-tube of puppies up for us all to see, he wordlessly dropped it into a garbage bag-lined plastic bin. And then he began sewing up the dog, who’s body, I was beginning to realize, had been slowly stretching and shaping in preparation to give birth, but who now was going to awaken from anesthesia with a belly slackened and empty.

That’s when I realized that I had just witnessed a dog abortion.

And while my heart broke for those puppies quietly dying in the bin, it also broke for the dog on the table who I was certain would feel some sense of loss or confusion when she woke up. I wanted to both save the puppies and comfort the mother. I wanted to find a home for her and for those cute little pups. But I couldn’t do that myself, and that wasn’t why I was there, so I did neither. But I went home deeply bothered and realized in that moment that I was not cut out to be a veterinarian.

I didn’t know it then, but this concern I had over the dog and her pups is what Pro-Life ministries do for human families. While the terms “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” have become trigger words in our culture that are pitted at opposite ends of a spectrum, I truly believe that most people on both sides of the abortion issue act out of deep concern for the woman expecting a child. I also believe that most people on both sides agree that men and women should be able to have a say in (or choose) medical procedures that affect their bodies. The problem with pregnancy is that there are actually two bodies involved: the woman’s body, yes of course, but also a separate hidden body that is her unborn child. And even if he isn’t present, somewhere there is a third body: that of the man who helped create that unborn child. This is what my exposure to Pro-Life work has helped me see, because I didn’t always see it: that we must act with love out of concern for ALL of them.

Yes, we help and love and pray for the destitute and overwhelmed mothers, yes we help and love and pray for the distraught or absent fathers, and yes… we also do all of these things for the unborn.

The words from Deuteronomy are clear today, “Choose life then, that you and your descendants might live….” It is an inarguable fact that through abortion, not all of our descendants get the chance to live. We are cherry-picking our descendants before we even know them. And while the gateway for that may have been a law that gave us the option, the law is not even the issue. Abortion could be legal forever, but that doesn’t mean that any of us must choose it.

If our hearts change, the law will hardly matter. Blessed Mother, pray for us!
Reflect: Do you believe your life and body are your own or that they are gifts from God? If you believe they are your own have you ever thought about why you exist? What do you believe is the purpose for your life? For your body? If you believe your life and body are from God, what are some changes you need to make to better align with what God desires for your life? For your body? (Hint: Try reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West or These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson if you are unsure of God’s desires for your life and body.)
Pray: Loving Father, you have created us out of love for relationship with one another. Help us break down the barriers that prevent us from having real communication with one another about difficult and complex issues. Open our ears to hear what those whom we view as our opposition are truly saying, and help us unite the many divisions of our government, our country, our economy, our world, and most especially your Body the Church. Amen.

NOTE:  Some people (men or women) experience traumatic loss, sadness or even suicidal thoughts after choosing to terminate a pregnancy.  If you experience any of these thoughts or emotions after an abortion, please know there is help for you!  Consider reaching out to  Hope After Abortion  or  Rachel’s Vineyard .