Today’s daily Mass readings include almost an entire chapter of the Book of Daniel — the exciting story of Susanna and the Elders!
Susanna is the gorgeous and pious young wife of Joachim, a rich Jewish man even in Babylon. Joachim holds open house for the elders of the community, but they repay his hospitality by lusting for his wife. They plot to surprise her alone in her garden while her husband is not home, then extort her into sleeping with them.
St. Susanna refuses, reasoning that it is better to be threatened by men than to do wrong before God. She screams for help. (Thus claiming legal protection and refusal to go along.) The elders double down when help comes, and claim that they saw her committing adultery under a tree. (The classic Bible prostitution as pagan worship scenario.) Acting as false judges, they order her to be stoned to death.
And then, who should speak up but young Daniel, a little boy, sent by God to prove Susanna’s innocence?
To make a long story short, Daniel persuades the crowd to separate the elders and take their testimony separately. He asks them each about what kind of tree Susanna was under, when they saw her doing the hanky-panky. Each one answers quickly and definitely — but one says it was a mastic tree, while other says it was an oak.
St. Susanna is saved, and the elders are punished instead. God has judged the matter fairly, through the wit and wisdom of the boy Daniel.
This shows the close Biblical relationship between prophecy and judgment.
You also get a comparison with the Gospel reading with Jesus saving the woman caught in adultery. She really was guilty, but Jesus judged that she should receive mercy and that the crowd be forced to judge themselves guilty. In each case, only a few words are needed to show the truth.
The Lord God is a sleuth of minds and hearts. He walked down those mean streets, but was not Himself mean. He is the Mystery with the ultimate happy ending.
But He is also the stern just Judge, Who will make sure that the wicked get what’s coming to them. Maybe not the ones we assume, maybe not the way we think, but soon and forever.
May You count us among Your clients, O Great Detective.