Wednesday, 10 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we heard about the story of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar and the three friends of the prophet Daniel, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In that story, we heard how the king of Babylon built a great golden statue of his own image, and commanded all of his people and all those under his dominion to worship the great golden statue as himself.

But the three men, the friends of Daniel refused to abandon their worship and faith in God, the Lord and one true God of all. While literally everyone else submitted to the king’s commands, even begrudgingly, at the pain of suffering and death, but three men refused to bow down and remained firm in their conviction to be faithful to God and not worshipping any other gods or idols. They made the king very angry and he ordered them to be thrown into the blazing furnace.

The three men believed wholeheartedly in God, and they trusted in Him, that He would not abandon His faithful ones to destruction. And even if the king did destroy their body and existence, but God would not allow their eternal soul to be destroyed, for God alone has authority over our eternal souls. That is why, even though the three of them, who were counted among exiles and slaves of the king, for they were conquered and defeated by the Babylonians, and slavery was a common fate at the time, but in truth they were truly free.

This ought to be contrasted with what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus confronted many of the people who doubted Him and refused to believe in the truth and in the good works that He has performed in their midst. They contended that they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, as those who have been born of the race of Israel, born into the community of the Israelites, descendants of Israel of old, and because of that, they were free.

This must be understood in the context of what the Lord said. The Lord said that because of sin, man has been enslaved and lived in bondage to sin, but the Israelites misunderstood and thought that He was referring to an actual, physical state of slavery as was understood at the time, or to the slavery of their ancestors in the land of Egypt. As compared to that time, the Israelites were relatively free, as even though they came under the domination of the Roman Empire, but they had ample autonomy and freedom.

But the Lord rebuked them for their misunderstanding and lack of faith in God. They did not realise that their stubbornness in their opposition to the good works of God done through Christ, and their constant prideful attitudes were only hurting themselves, and keeping themselves enslaved to the power of sin. Instead, the Lord was showing them the true path, the same one that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had taken, that is the path of faith.

The people who opposed Jesus indeed did not worship idols and statues like that of the people of Daniel’s time. However, they did not realise that they have made idols out of various other things in their lives, such as money, power, possessions, societal influence and fame, glory and human praise, and many others, that the Lord often criticised the people for. They might indeed appear outwardly pious, and yet, in their hearts, there was no love for God.

And it was those attachments to sin that prevented them from becoming truly free, the path that the Lord Jesus was showing to all of them. And the devil is indeed busy at work, trying to prevent us all from attaining this true freedom in Christ. For if everyone become free, then he, our slavemaster, will no longer have any slaves to dominate over. And that is why Satan makes the path of false freedom, that is the path of sin, much more appealing and attractive, as compared to the path of faith.

That was the same choice that the three friends of Daniel faced. They had to face a very difficult choice, of choosing between the obviously much easier path of accepting the king’s commands and bending the knee to worship the abomination, and receive from the king much favours, graces and good things, even pleasures and joys in life, or to choose the much more difficult and painful path of remaining true to their faith in God, and perish.

But they showed their courage and mettle, and they remained firm in their faith and in their choice, and this is what each and every one of us Christians are called to do in our lives as well. We are faced with choices all the time throughout our lives, to choose between following and doing what is convenient and good for us, and yet, disobeying God’s commandments and causing us to sin, or to choose to remain faithful, even despite challenges, disapproval from others and even those who are close to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach the coming of the Holy Week, let us remember that we should unite ourselves with Christ and with all of our holy predecessors, including Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in our obedience to God’s will and in our willingness and conviction to live our lives in accordance with His ways from now on. Let us all turn to God and focus ourselves entirely towards Him, and let us all be faithful from now on, in all of our words, actions and deeds.

May the Lord give us the strength and courage to continue to persevere down this path of faith, and journey together with Him, as we carry up our crosses in life, together with Christ, Who chose the difficult path of suffering, and die for us on the cross, that by His death, and by us sharing in His death, He may restore to us all the gift of eternal life and glory. Amen.

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