Monday of the Fifth Week
The first reading, from Daniel, is a story of innocence and guilt. But with whom do we identify in the story? The innocent and falsely accused Susanna? The brave and clever judge Daniel? Or the lustful and lying old men? As with stories of generosity, where it is so much easier to identify with the beneficent almsgiver rather than the destitute, here it is most comfortable and even gratifying to see ourselves as Susanna or Daniel, and very hard indeed to face the contemptible old man within. There is rightfully great comfort in knowing that God has promised justice in the world. But how we limit our growth toward God if we only seek that which makes us feel self-righteous and comfortable, and avoid facing our failings honestly. Fortunately, the incredibly powerful responsorial psalm offers strength and solace not only to the innocent, but also to the guilty. The dark valley is commonly perceived as outside us, and the enemies as separate from ourselves, so we see ourselves as innocent and besieged, with God as our defender, leading us out of harm. But the darkness, and battles fought, can as often be within, and the enemy our own dishonesty and selfishness. Here in the psalm though, God promises us also an inner peace, and moreover to give us the courage to make it through our daily struggles.
The Lord is my shepherd, and even when the darkness is within, I will not fear to face it, for You are not only at my side, but within and without me, and with Your staff and rod, You give me courage. I will trust in Your love and Your promise that I will live in Your house forever.
Joanna Ellis-Monahan, Professor of Mathematics
First Reading: Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62
Gospel: John 8:12-20
Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website