"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Temptation of Susanna

God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 

I don't usually think of Susanna as being tempted when confronted by the two men who would take advantage of her.

Today's first reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel recounts the story of the two elders appointed judges who falsely accused Susanna in retaliation for her refusal to give in to their lustful demands.  They propositioned her.  She refused.  She did not consent.  Though she was vulnerable, naked before two men aroused to assault her.  Trapped she could not flee the temptation, thus she reasoned;
“I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned.“If I yield, it will be my death;if I refuse, I cannot escape your power.Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guiltthan to sin before the Lord.”Then Susanna shrieked, and the old men also shouted at her,as one of them ran to open the garden doors. - Daniel 13
She suffered the consequences of resisting their advances and the lies they told, tarnishing her honor. She did not consent to the temptation and was falsely accused.  She was without sin and only later justified, delivered from death, her accusers condemned.

I also never considered the elders as being tempted, albeit by their own lust, rather I've always considered them as evil perpetrators, dirty old men, potential rapists.

The story of Susanna is all about that which seems so commonplace today.  Sex-lies-videotape: Lust, voyeurism-porn, covetousness, infidelity, hypocrisy, lies.  How seductive is grace and beauty, vain rejoicing in natural goods.

The men lusting after Susanna were old, respected elders and judges, reputed to be religious.  Their story helps to understand the 'stages' of temptation and sins of the flesh;
Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk.
When the old men saw her enter every day for her walk,
they began to lust for her.
They suppressed their consciences;
they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven,
and did not keep in mind just judgments. - Daniel 13
They suppressed their consciences - they wouldn't look to heaven, that is - they did not pray, pray in the midst of temptation - while no fear of just judgment for sin could deter them from following their lust.  As the Prophet Daniel exclaimed: beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience.  That is exactly how we fall into sin - young men and old.

Susanna prayed and was delivered.  Never discount the power of prayer.  Unceasing prayer, persevering prayer.

Lead us not into temptation.

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