DAILY READINGS AND REFLECTION
Wednesday (1 April 2020), 5th Week in Lent
Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28 – God has sent his angel to rescue his servants
KING Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected?
‘When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’
These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
John 8:31-42 – If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed
TO the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: ‘If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.’
They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descended from Abraham; but in spite of that you want to kill me because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
‘What I, for my part, speak of is what I have seen with my Father; but you, you put into action the lessons learnt from your father.’
They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them: ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does.’
‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered: ‘If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’
IN the last days of His life, Jesus’ desperate attempts to convince the unbelieving Jews that He came from God to set them free, are also put before us in these last days and opportunities in Lent.
If we believe, Jesus will make His home in us, turning us into His disciples, teaching us the Truth, and He the Truth, will make us free.
True freedom is not human “libertism”, the absolute liberty to do what we ourselves want. Freedom that saves is the freedom to choose to do what God wills.
In this true sense, Jesus says at the end of today’s gospel reading: “… yes, I have come from him (the Father) not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’ To sacrifice His own choice to let His Father rule, is freedom.
Freedom is not physically inherited; it comes from our personal faith in God. It is destroyed by the sin of unbelief. We cannot say that we are free just because we sons of Abraham, we are Catholics, unless like Abraham and Jesus, we believe and love God and do what He wills.
The greatest sin and destruction of freedom is to refuse to believe in the Son of God, for to believe in Him is to believe in the Son has believed, loved, and inherited all that belong to the Father who sent Him. The slave is not free; he inherits nothing; he dies in his sin; he dies in his unbelief.
That the Son of God, has come to save and free us is powerfully put before us in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (their Hebrew names being Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria), a “type”, a similarity from the past in the Old Testament.
These three brilliant young Hebrews had been hand-picked and appointed high officials in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar the King. But they remained steadfast in the belief of the one true God. They refused to bow to the golden statue Nebuchadnezzar had made and ordered all officials to bow to under pain of being thrown into the fiery furnace.
The three young men were thrown into the furnace made seven times hotter for they not only refused to bow to the statue but firmly affronted the King who personally tried to persuade them to apostatize.
So furious was Nebuchadnezzar that he himself went to see the burning of the three young men. To his shock, he saw the three young men in the thick of the flames dancing and quite unharmed. With them was another who looked like the “son of gods”. There were not three but four! Having seen the three miraculously saved and freed from death, the king declared:
‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
Let the prayer of the king be ours today, and let us mean what we say, for we have little time and few opportunities left before Holy Week.