Daniel 13:1–9, 15–17, 19–30, 33–62; Psalm 23:1–3a, 3b–4, 5, 6; John 8:1–11
Two women accused of adultery are the focus of today’s Scriptures. We add to the mix a lay Franciscan whose conversion from a state of public sin inspired others to penance in the thirteenth century. From the book of Daniel comes the story of Susanna, a woman wrongly accused of adultery. It becomes the occasion for the hero of the book, young Daniel, to trap the elders who lusted after Susanna and brought the false accusation.
In the Gospel, Jesus is presented with a woman caught in adultery. Her guilt is not in question, though, under Jewish law, her partner in the sin is not on trial. Jesus challenges those publicly shaming the woman to participate in the law’s required punishment of stoning—if they themselves are sinless. No one steps forward to cast a stone, and Jesus forgives her. It’s a story of mercy, and the anonymous sinner (not Mary Magdalene, as some have suggested) is freed by Jesus to turn her life around.
Margaret of Cortona was a thirteenth-century Italian orphaned at seven. She later lived with a man to whom she bore a son out of wedlock. After her partner’s brutal murder, Margaret was moved to begin a life of penance. She moved with her son to Cortona. He became part of the new Franciscan movement, and Margaret eventually joined Francis’ gospel life for lay persons, sometimes called the “Third Order.” Known for vigorous self-denial, Margaret nursed the sick, inspired others to conversion, and founded a congregation of sisters.
Three women, three different stories. In each, God was at work. The presence of evil and the power of mercy are lessons all of us can learn on our lenten path to conversion.
Consider how you can support women who are victimized in today’s society.
God all-merciful, defend those falsely accused,
forgive those who come to you in repentance,
and strengthen us to avoid sin.