WEDNESDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF LENT (Dan 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95; Dan 3: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56; Jn 8: 31-42) Those who speak the Truth which comes from God and those who are in a close relationship with God often find themselves in opposition to those who are in authority over them, particularly if those in authority are not open to the Truth and to God’s revelation. Our First Reading tells us part of the story of the three young Jewish exiles: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Prior to today’s passage, we are told that they were trained in the royal service of the King of Babylon. They remain faithful Jews while rising in the service of the king. Some of the other royal court members were jealous of the three Jewish believers. Those who were jealous had convinced the king to make a royal decree in which the king forced all citizens to worship a golden image the king had set up. Anyone who would refuse to worship the golden image would be executed.
In today’s passage Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tell the king that they cannot and will not worship anything except the God of their faith. They are willing to be thrown into the fiery furnace, the means of execution. They make their prayer: “If our God, Whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace. . .may God save us!” After being bound tightly and thrown into the furnace, they are seen walking freely among the burning flames, untouched and perfectly safe. The king comes to praise God Who has protected them.
The response is taken from the prayer of praise sung by the three as they walk amidst the fiery furnace. It gives glory and honour to the God of their ancestors – the God Who is to be exalted above all forever. Jesus, in the Gospel, speaks about the faithful and true disciple who knows the Truth which sets one free. The Truth comes from the relationship one has with God, in and through Jesus, the Son of God. If one is faithful to the relationship with God, one will be free of sin, and live as a descendant of Abraham, our father in faith. Nothing, not even persecution nor death, will be able to enslave us if we are in relationship with God the Father through Jesus, the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus informs the religious leaders that they are not true descendants of Abraham because they are not being true to the relationship of faith that Abraham had with God. They do not truly “know” the God Whom they call upon. If they were faithful to the relationship with GOD as Father, they would recognize Jesus as the One Whom God the Abba has sent. Jesus speaks of sin as not being in relationship with God: “Everyone who lives in sin, is the slave of sin. (No slave has a permanent place in the family.)” If one is aware of one’s place in the family, one is not a slave – a slave of sin. If one is still sinning, one has not come to the full awareness of one’s relationship with the Father Who is God.
As I reflect on the readings today, I think about my relationship with God. Am I a true and faithful disciple who seeks to deepen my relationship with God in and through Jesus? I may say the right words, but do I live my life in a way which shows I am in a loving relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Sometimes I am more like those whom Jesus addresses in the Gospel – people who have not let the word of Jesus find a hearing among them. As I reflect on my life, I realize that sin still has an effect on my life. I fail, at times, to see my relationship with God, and therefore my relationship with others. I seek my own selfish ways instead of ways which praise the God Who is my Father.
The example of the three young men in the First Reading inspires us. They were rising in status in their service of the king of Babylon. Because of the jealousy of others, they were forced to stand up for their relationship with God. They were willing to remain faithful to God as their number one priority in life, even if that meant a painful, bodily death. They trusted in the loving relationship with GOD rather than in the power of mortals. If God would save them, then praised be God. If God chose not to save them, then praised be God anyway. They would not change their allegiance to God, because they had developed such a close relationship with God that they knew that the relationship with God was something for which they would be willing to die.
Their song of praise of God as they walked in the white-hot furnace should be our prayer, especially when we face opposition: “Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our ancestors, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is Your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”