5th Week of Lent
1st Reading: Dan 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
King Nebuchadnezzar said: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up? Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made, whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments; otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace; and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.” King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and had some of the strongest men in his army bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and cast them into the white-hot furnace. Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” “Assuredly, O king,” they answered. “But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.” Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
Gospel Jn 8:31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.” They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
Truth and Justice: Shedrach, Meshack and Abednego, as well as Jesus were sentenced to death for standing up to the truth and to their belief. Both the King and the Jews rejected the truth. Witnessing the Christian faith and standing for truth and justice have consequences which may be unpleasant. They may include death since not all end up miraculously like the three young men. John the Baptist was not released miraculously. Leah Shaibu, (the young Nigerian girl still held by Boko Haram for refusing to deny her Christian faith) is still in captivity. The outcome depends on God’s plan which is hidden from our eyes. However, in the face of persecution, affirmation of faith is key. We see that in the three young men, in John the Baptist, and in Jesus. Whatever the case, we will not bow before a false god, be it pleasure, crime, wrong doing, corruption or whatever else comes our way. We will not compromise our Christian faith.
PRAYER: Lord, help us to persevere when we are made to suffer because of our faith and goodness! Amen!
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE: In the first reading, God rescues those who trust in him (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). He does this to the dismay of the ruthless King. He shows His might. Jesus is doing great works and preaching with authority. God is revealing Himself through Jesus. This revelation is the Truth from the Father to the world. It is the mission of Jesus, to proclaim this Truth, first to the Jews. However, they reject the Truth and instead want to kill Jesus. Let us remember that Jesus is the Truth and He came to proclaim the Truth (God). Truth sets us free from slavery of sin, and allows us to walk holiness. Truth dictates that we listen to Jesus and get His sufficient Grace. Jesus shows us the way to true freedom in God. He grants us true joy. Let us be His true disciples.
Prayer: Lord open my ears to listen to you voice.
HOSTILITY THAT DISTORTS EVERYTHING: The old king Nebuchadnezzar is hostile to the three young boys who are not ready to worship the golden statue. Was it the king’s statue? The three youths refuse to bow down to a faulty system and remain steadfast in the God they serve. They are unhurt in the furnace. Everyone who is rooted in God is like being in a fire that burns and yet not consumed (Exodus 3,3). Jesus faces the hostility of the Jews who refuse to know the truth that makes free. Their hearts are hardened. They already have their conclusions and whatever invites them to a change is a threat. Am I not resistant to change?
SALVATION IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT: These days, everyone is aware of their “human rights”. This is good. We claim what we are entitled to: education, health-care, freedom of expression, legal protection, safety and security; the list goes on. Sometimes we come to God with the same attitude of demanding our entitlements, including salvation. The leaders of the Jews, in the gospel of today, speak a similar language of entitlement when they say, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus is emphatic, if you are a sinner you are a slave of sin, and being or not being the child of Abraham does not make a difference. The season of Lent challenges us too: are we claiming to be Christians, having been baptized and received the sacraments, and expecting salvation to be granted as an entitlement? This should never be our course, rather, it is a daily choice of responding to the love of God made visible in Jesus that leads us closer to God, and salvation is grace.