One of the Talmudic principles is paradoxical, but very revelatory: “If everyone is in agreement to condemn someone accused, release him, for he must be innocent.”
Unanimity in human groups is suspect, for it could often be a sign of blind conformity and unwillingness to explore the truth by oneself. It is also a fear of standing up for an unpopular view, which leaves you standing alone and vulnerable. The unanimity in the condemnation of Susanna was one such case where the innocence of the victim was drowned in the popular din. Daniel was brave enough to challenge the unanimity and open the eyes of the people.
However, the reverse unanimity found in the condemnation of the two elders which resulted in their murder was unfortunate too! The mercy that Jesus offered to the woman caught in adultery and potentially to her accusers as well (yesterdays’ gospel) was left untapped in the judgement of the elders, which still smacked of human forms of condemnation and judgement, which Jesus refers to in the gospel passage today.
Do we have similar courage, like that of Jesus, to stand apart from the crowd and challenge false unanimities that seek to condemn, divide, and kill, but not to forgive, unite, and redeem?
(Note: This reflection is a revised and updated version of the author’s own reflection for the same readings in the Bible Diary 2013 [Claretian Publications]. All rights reserved. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)