Daniel 13:1-62; Ps 23 The Lord is my Shepherd; John 8:1-11
"When they old men saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They suppressed their conscience; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments."
This is the critique the scripture writer give to the two old goats who seek to trap and seduce the lovely an innocent Susana.
They suppressed their conscience. It was a gradual and slow death to their conscience. It did not happen all at once, but over time their conscience slowly eroded, an erosion caused by giving into their lust.
Where does this conscience come from? Here are a few words from Cardinal Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI currently the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that I think help elucidate the issue:
"The first so called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From it's origin, man's being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This memory of origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is, so speak, an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: that's it! That is what my nature points to and seeks…The more man lives "in fear of the Lord"the more concretely and clearly effective this memory becomes."
St Basil calls this the "spark of divine love which has been hidden in us."
What this boils down to according to Ratzinger is that "what characterizes man as man is not that he asks about the "can" but about the "should," and that opens himself to the voice and demands of truth."
The reality is that this memory can be covered over. This memory can be falsified by our subjective whims and fancy as we see in the story of Susanna. The old men muted their conscience and let their own subjective desires of lust to trump the voice of truth. They stopped asking "should we do this" and merely focused on the "want to" and "can do" of the selfish desires which lose sight of the objective truth at hand.
Thus what morality requires, if we are going to restore humanity to its original memory of truth is witnesses. We need witnesses to the life wisdom of faith, in which the primitive wisdom of humanity is cleansed, maintained, and deepened.
Daniel in todays first reading becomes that witness to truth. Where are our witnesses today. Daniel was impelled by the spirit of God to speak out. Who today stands on the ground of truth and goodness? We have many judges like the old men who have allowed their consciences to be corrupted. Too many! What we need are witness.
This is why the martyr is so powerful for us. They stood their ground. They allowed the fear of God to become center place int heir life. All of their actions were rooted in this one reality: does it glorify God or not.
Then maybe innocent blood can be spared.