Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture beginning the narrative from the Book of the prophet Daniel, a prophet who was brought into exile in Babylon during his youth in the ending days of the kingdom of Judah just before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple of God. Daniel and his companions were brought to the faraway land, uprooted from their homes and families, and made to serve the King of Babylon and his ministers.
Such was the humiliation and suffering that they all had to suffer, humiliated of having lost their homeland and later on to hear how the city of God, Jerusalem and its Temple were razed and destroyed by the Babylonians, its treasures and riches carried off to the Babylonian kingdom, all the sacred vessels once used to worship God became instead the profane drinking cups of the kings and their nobles as described in the latter part of the Book of Daniel.
Amidst such a situation, it must have been difficult for Daniel and his companions, another three Israelites named Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, also known by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to remain faithful to God and not to bend their knees to the pressures and demands of the Babylonians and their kings. Yet, that was exactly what they did, in remaining true to their faith even in such difficult conditions.
They gave their all to God, and in doing their best in whatever that God has led them into, in serving the king of Babylon and his ministers, in doing their best as the servants, and by the grace of God, they became the favoured servants of the king, and especially Daniel was honoured for his great wisdom and ability to interpret the king’s dreams while none other could do so. But, they would not budge when the king demanded that everyone, including them to bow down their knees to worship a golden statue that king Nebuchadnezzar built in his own likeness.
They had nothing on them, no wealth and no pride, no more than memory of the humiliation of their country and people, the destruction of their holy city and Temple, and yet, they gave their love and faith to God. In our Psalm today, we heard part of the song which Azariah the other two companions of Daniel sang when they were thrown into the blazing furnace by the order of the king when they openly defied the king’s demands to worship his golden statue.
They praised God Who had been with them all those while and reiterated their faith and love for Him. They sang of His glorious majesty in the presence of the king and all gathered from within the flame, apparently unharmed and an Angel of God by their side, as seen by the king and all. The king and everyone were astonished, and because of what happened, the king decided to destroy the golden statue that he had just built, and restored the three companions of Daniel to their previous honoured positions.
We see how God was always with His faithful ones, and for those who truly trust in Him and gave their all, they did not fear because they knew that God would be always by their side even amidst sufferings and challenges, even through martyrdoms and painful deaths. That is the same sentiment and example that the Lord Jesus highlighted in our Gospel passage today, as we heard another well-known story of the widow’s mite.
In that occasion, a poor widow came to the Temple bearing two small copper coins as offerings to God, while many rich men came to offer plentiful of offerings that were far greater than the poor widow’s offering. Yet, she offered and gave from her own shortage and limitations, and as a result, she gave from the deepest love in her heart. She is the epitome of what true Christian discipleship is, and like the prophet Daniel and his companions, she had given her all to God.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what each and every one of us need to do as well. We need to do our best to serve the Lord with all of our strength, and to give the best for Him from the depths of our hearts. And today we have yet another example to look up to, in the person of St. Catherine of Alexandria, a holy woman and saint whose feast we celebrate today. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a faithful disciple of the Lord who went through a particularly brutal persecution under the pagan Roman Emperor Maxentius.
St. Catherine defended her fellow faithful when that Emperor persecuted Christians throughout his realm, rebuking him for his actions and stood up for the Lord. The Emperor tried to oppose her with the best pagan philosophers and thinkers of the time, but none of them were able to outshine her wisdom, and the Emperor in his anger made this faithful woman to undergo bitter suffering and torture. When the Emperor’s own wife and other women came to see St. Catherine in her suffering, it was told that even they converted and were martyred along as well.
St. Catherine of Alexandria gave everything for the Lord’s sake, even her own life, not holding back even when the pagan Emperor in desperation tried to get her by trying to woo her in marriage, as beautiful as St. Catherine was even after she was tortured. She remained firm in her dedication and committed herself and her virginity before God and the Emperor, by which then she was martyred after a long time of suffering, and became a great inspiration for many Christians after her time.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Alexandria, to imitate the love of the widow who gave her all to God, and also the dedication of Daniel and his fellow companions who remained true to their faith in God amidst all the challenges they had to face. Let us all thus strive to be true Christian disciples and do our very best to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and to give Him everything that we are, and committing ourselves to Him from now on. May He continue to bless us all and guide us in this journey, that we may draw ever closer to Him. Amen.