In case you were wondering, I was named for the Susanna in the chapter 8 of Saint Luke’s Gospel, but from my earliest consciousness of the book of Daniel, I felt drawn to this story of the Old Testament Susanna. I was drawn in by her innocence before her accusers and her people and her plea to God. She, of the house of Judah, being very beautiful, became victim to a wicked plot of two old men who “suppressed their consciences.” These men first tried to satisfy their lusts with her, and when she proved uncooperative and virtuous, they accused her openly of committing adultery. As she is being taken to be executed, God stirs the young boy Daniel who, on separating the elders from each other and them naming two very different species of trees, proves her innocence. She trusted in God, He saved her, the old men were punished, and her good name was preserved.
In the New Testament we have a very different story. Here is a woman who was actually caught in the very act of adultery. She is a sinner, she has no good name to preserve, and according to the ancient law, she is to be put to death. But she is brought before Jesus, who came to establish the New Covenant. He came to His unfaithful people, who like the woman caught in adultery, have turned from their covenant with God many times. He looks at her; He forgives her. Only He is without sin; only He can judge her. In His judgment, He shows mercy. He only tells her, “Go, and do not sin again.”
He says this to us all. Susanna, who was innocent of the crime of which she was accused, was certainly not without any sin. In her cry to God to save her, she must have realized this. And after her redemption, she must have been lead to a deeper conversion. She experienced firsthand what can happen when a person becomes lax in following her conscience. The woman caught in adultery also saw her own sinfulness, and her redemption from execution also lead her to live a converted life. Maybe some of the Pharisees who caught her in adultery were also led to conversion. Because Jesus came, we can be forgiven and make our lives anew.
In what ways are we like Susanna, innocent but accused? Where can we form our consciences to become even more virtuous? Or maybe we are like the woman caught in adultery, in a deeper, grave, pattern of sin. Christ sees us in the very act. Or maybe we are like the Pharisees standing in judgment.
We are called to conversion. We are called to let go of our judgment, to turn from our sin, and to “Go, and do not sin again.”
Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls and her dear husband. You can find out more about her here.