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Vol. XIV, June 2008

 

“The Angel of God shall receive the sentence from Him” (Dan 13:55)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The gift of the infused or God-given wisdom of Daniel was proved on another occasion. Two malicious elders and judges accused and condemned falsely the innocent woman, Susanna. When the people were already on the way to stone Susanna, Daniel lifted up his voice. He pointed out that they proceeded wrongly because they condemned someone without clear examination. They returned and wanted to listen to him. With the simple question where the supposed sin should have taken place, he made these lustful men reveal their lie. And Daniel said to the first as to the second: “The angel of God shall receive the sentence from Him and split you in two;” and to the second one, he said: “the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both” (Dan 13:55 and 59). Through this, the innocent woman was not stoned, but the people inflicted on the two elders “the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor: they put them to death” (v. 61).

1. God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel.

Susanna, “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” (Dan 13:2), was falsely accused of adultery. In her innocence she turned to God and “cried aloud: ‘O eternal God, You know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: You know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.’ The Lord heard her prayer” (13:43-44).

a) The short legs of the lies

“God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud: ‘I will have no part in the death of this woman.’ … and continued, ‘Are you such fools, O Israelites!, to condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence?” (vv. 45, 48). The people accepted his intervention and gave him the possibility to take the case in his hands. He separated the two, and asked each one, under what tree they would have found her. They indicated two different trees, and every one understood immediately that they lied. Here then entered the reference to the holy angel.


Daniel told the first: “Your fine lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from Him and split you in two.” And similarly he said “to the other ‘beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience.’ (And) ‘Your fine lie has cost you also your head, … for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both.”

b) The depth of the sin of lust

These elders were in this year the judges of the people. The task did not free them from temptations. But temptations and sin are still two different worlds. Some people are protected through their task: they are ashamed of the public whose eyes are turned toward them. Others live in the presumption that the people consider them special, mature, worthy of that position and therefore would not believe if someone would accuse them of faults. Therefore they care less and fall easily in spite of their position. This happened to the two. They not only were tempted, but agreed, first interiorly in their intention, then by planning the execution and finally by proceeding to act out the sinful plan. That is not yet all. The two persisted in their intention to sin, and this lead them to commit two more sins: They were not ashamed to lie and cover up their bad intention, and even to kill. The gravity of their behavior does not surprise is if we hear Daniel’s accusation: “Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death’” (vv. 52-53).

c) The freshness of the youth

In this situation, God turned to the youth, to “a young boy named Daniel” in order to wake the people up and show them the foolishness of their actions: “Are you such fools, O Israelites!” It is true that with the years of life we gain experience of life. We make our own experiences, meet many people and – especially as priests – share in many different situations of life. Therefore, age makes a man more careful. However, it is not always prudence which makes us more silent, it can also be a loss of enthusiasm or even the discouragement through the experience of one’s own human weakness. The testimony and courage of Daniel who cried out: “Stop, turn around!” should call our attention.

2. Angelic values

On the way to the execution of the chaste woman, Daniel stood up, cried aloud: “I will have no part in the death of this woman.” (v. 46). Our special interest is the confession of Daniel’s faith. We might believe that it was the common faith in Israel. Daniel said to each one of the two elders, after having brought forth their lie: “The angel of God shall receive the sentence from Him and split you in two,” “the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both.” (v. 55 and 59)


This marvelous help from God with regard to the innocent woman and the testimony of Daniel reveals to us various values in the eyes of the angels.

• The first lesson is about the value of prayer: Susanna turned to God in her innocence; she did not ask for anything special, but just placed herself before His omniscience. Confidence in prayer calls GOD’s attention and answer!

• The second lesson is on the obedience of the angels: They receive their order from God. And, as we can observe, they do not ask why God wants something from them, they don’t question God or put God’s word before the tribunal of their mind. They fulfill the will of God in the deep conviction that the order God gives is always correct, well chosen, and the best! And there is nothing more imprudent than to want to correct God. In this sense, after love, obedience is the first and most meritorious virtue. We see this in Christ’s life and Passion (cf. Jn 5:19ff; Lk 22:42 and 23:46); in the example of our Lady (cf. Lk 1:38). We see it here with the angels, and the father of religious life in the West, St. Benedict. He teaches some characteristics of obedience to include: “without hesitation”, “with joyful heart”, “animated by the desire for the eternal life” (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, ch. 5; cf. Chapter 4: “Do nothing in preference to the love of Christ”).

• A third lesson is certainly the esteem of chastity: The cry of a pure soul penetrates heaven and draws him down to earth. Did God not wait with the incarnation and His redemptive work for the birth of the Immaculate Virgin! Susanna defended her purity even under the price of death. Chastity does make us—and this not just in our days, as we see here, to be strangers in this world (“they are in the world…and the world has hated them because they are not of the world” Jn 17:11, 14). Chastity may even become the cause by which we have to leave the world—the world not as creation, but as the enemy of God (cf. 1 Cor 2:12).

• The confrontation of Susanna with these elders points also to the interior or spiritual chastity, to purity of heart (emotions), and still further to a “clean mind”, to righteous thoughts and pure intentions. God wants the integrity and veracity of a person. Here is the purity where angel and man meet and understand each other.

• This purity keeps a creature so united with God that the execution of a sentence of God is for such a servant of God a contribution to the glorification of God. Where evil disappears, there shines forth more brilliantly the infinite majesty and beauty of God. This is what we saw already before in the liberation of Israel from Egypt (cf. Ex 22:20-23; 7-14; Jos 5-6) and we will see it again in the New Testament (cf. e.g. Acts 12:22-23: When the people wanted to give a man the honor which is reserved to God, “immediately an angel of the Lord smote [that man, Herod] because he [like the people] did not give God the glory; and he was eaten by worms and died.” See also Acts 5:1-11).

3. And the mercy of God?

Two more points we might recall here to strengthen our faith and hope in God’s presence in our life and in the assistance and help of the holy angels:

One is the general mission of the angels: God has designated them to be the administrators of all the creatures below them or as helpers of His providential love and fatherly care for the world. Fr. John Hardon tells us in his beautiful and very rich Meditations on the Angels (Bardstown, KY, 2006, 113-114): “What we dare not forget is that angels are the ordinary agents used by God to protect and deliver His faithful servants from the machinations of evil men inspired by the evil spirit. … Angels have a phenomenal influence over the forces of nature, whether human or material. They exercise this influence constantly for our benefit.” And, “Good angels are also used by the Lord to destroy those who are enemies of the servants of God.”

This mission comes to its end at the final harvest because they “serve at His judgement” (CCC 333): “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt 13:40-42).

And what about the mercy of God? A certain parallel in the life of Jesus gives us the clear answer to this important question: “The scribes and the Pharisees” brought to Jesus a “woman who had been caught in adultery” (Jn 8:3). Why did Jesus not call for the angels here and kill her? Jesus found repentance, but here we see the stubbornness of the two elders in their faults. They themselves did not allow God’s mercy to save them.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

It is beautiful that God gave us such examples as Susanna and Daniel, in situations so similar to ours. God helped his innocent people through Daniel and the holy angels. We priests are, like the holy angels and Daniel, instruments of God, instruments of love and of justice. May those who already reached the eternal goal assist us that we may always recognize clearly God’s will and fulfill it with the angelic accuracy. We can trust, that then we will find not just opposition from the falsehood of this world and from the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), but much more what Daniel harvested: “The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in Him” (Dan 13:60).

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC