Forging ahead resolutely

LENT 2020 – Day 36

Readings: Dan 3: 14-20.24-25.28; Ps Dan 3, 29-30, 31, 32, 33, 34; Jn 8: 31-42

The first reading is as interesting as it is chilling. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was a megalomaniac king who had erected a statue of gold. Prophet Daniel’s three companions Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who administered the province on his behalf, did not turn up at the official inauguration, as they were expected to. The monarch felt offended but gave them a fresh chance to show their respect, an offer that the trio rebuffed. They were ready to be thrown into the furnace, as per the king’s threat, but not bow to a cult image. Although they didn't plead with Yahweh to save them, they knew that He would. Or even if He didn’t, they would accept their fate in total resignation.

This is an apocryphal story whose sole purpose is to illustrate how God is all-powerful and rewards those who trust in Him. Not only did the trio escape totally unhurt, there was a fourth person keeping them company in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was convinced that it was an angel from above. Now in awe of Yahweh, he permitted the practice of the Jewish religion in his kingdom.

Not all Jews in Babylon, however, were like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Many did worship false gods; they were polytheistic like the king himself. No doubt, back home, in Jesus’ time, the Jews did worship one God, according to the teaching of their first patriarch Abraham. They even made it a point to tell Jesus so. But for His part, the Messiah was pointing to their slavery to sin, and made a promise to deliver them from that scourge.

Well, if the people truly believed in Him, Jesus expected them to show their total allegiance. He reasoned as follows: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.” Jesus argued that killing him would mean going against Abraham, who always heard the Father and did what He commanded. In turn, the Jews insisted that they were not born of fornication (prostitution, that is, unfaithfulness to God), and that they had only one Father, that is, God.

The Jews, mired in their traditional way of thinking, were obstinate. They could not accept the fact that Jesus could speak about the Father in intimate terms. Hence they took Him to be an impostor, a man possessed, who spoke of not dying – when even Abraham had eventually died.... But that was how Jesus spoke the full truth, and nothing but the truth. He wouldn’t speak just what the people wanted to hear....

That puts a great onus on us. Let's reflect on whether our word is truly Yes, yes, or No, no. Or are wishy-washy and ineffectual? If the Lord finds us lukewarm or halfhearted, He will spit us out of His mouth. Hence He invites us to show enthusiasm, dynamism, and deep commitment to Him and His Church. Come then, let’s go forward together with our united resolve and strength.