Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Daniel 13:1-9.15-17.19-30.33-62; John 8:1-11)
The terms reformatory and penitentiary were popular in previous eras. They indicated a place where juvenile delinquent and criminals might learn how to behave well. Perhaps because of the difficulty of making this transformation, today we speak of prisons. In prisons criminals are often more detained than rehabilitated. Still the main purpose of justice is to justify, that is to reform and not to punish.
In the readings today Jesus proves to be a wiser administrator of justice than Daniel. The Old Testament sage is able to ferret out the truth in a case of malicious calumny. Daniel reveals how two elders have lied about Susanna’s alleged adultery to condemn her to death. Jesus not only saves the woman caught in adultery from stoning but also rehabilitates her. His verdict is as firm as it is clement. She must “’not sin any more.’”
We have entered the last stages of Lent. Recalling Jesus’ justification of the adulteress helps us to anticipate his justification of the world on Good Friday. Jesus is history’s only really innocent human being. He died on the cross so that we might not be condemned for our sins. More than that, his death and resurrection have afforded us the Holy Spirit. With its guidance we too can live truly virtuous lives.