Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded of the bravery and the courage with which the friends of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood by their faith before the great king of the Babylonians, the lord of many nations and the one who led the conquest of Judah and Jerusalem, destroying the city and the Temple of God, and how this can then be related and compared with what we heard in our Gospel passage today with regards to the Lord and His confrontation with the Jewish people.
In the first reading today, we heard of the moment when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to the great golden statue built by king Nebuchadnezzar in his own image, as they held fast to their obedience and faith in God, and would not betray Him for the likeness of any idols or false gods. Even when faced with the full wrath of the king and the certain threat of suffering and death, all of them held firmly to their faith and did not give up their faith.
They were thus punished by the king of Babylon, to suffer and perish in the great furnace prepared for all those who dared to defy the command of the king. And as the king was furious with the refusal of the three friends of Daniel, and with their adamant and resolute stance against the worship of the idolatrous golden statue, he made the furnace to be much hotter, and threw the men into it. Yet, by divine providence and grace, they were unharmed. God protected them and sent His Angel to watch over them.
These three faithful men were among the people who had been brought off to exile in Babylon, as a people without a country, without land and honour left, humiliated and humbled. Their own original names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, as the names they were known by were actually forced upon them as the names the Babylonians imposed on them, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This symbolised the situation that they endured, bereft of their own homeland and even name, enslaved and oppressed.
Then we move on to our Gospel reading in which we heard the argument and confrontation between the Lord and the Jewish people in Judea, the latter referring to those who held and supported the hardline views of the Pharisees and therefore opposed the Lord Jesus and His works and ministry. The people argued that they were not enslaved and were free as they were the children of Abraham, when the Lord told them that if they were to believe in His words and accept His truth, then they would be free.
The people who refused to believe in Jesus hardened their hearts and stubbornly declined to listen to reason, and therefore they were actually enslaved. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, they were enslaved, and not free, because they were controlled by their desires, ego and pride, their refusal to admit that they could be wrong and mistaken, as they heard the truth from the Lord.
They continued to resist the truth even after having witnessed all that the Lord had done, and even after they had heard the great wisdom in His teachings and revelations, and the authority with which He has taught the people. This can be indeed contrasted with the attitudes of the three friends of Daniel. While the former, the people of the time of Jesus were free, but their hearts were in fact enslaved by sin, and the latter, the friends of Daniel, while they were enslaved in body, yet in their hearts and minds, they were truly free, by God’s grace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, therefore we are all called to reflect on our own lives and actions. Have we been truly free, brothers and sisters? Are we still enslaved by sin, by our ego, pride, desire and all sorts of worldly concerns and temptations, while we may be free in body? This is why as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, we are all called to do self-introspection, reflect and ponder on what we can do to be more faithful and to be righteous in life.
There will be plenty of challenges and trials facing us, brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not be afraid, for just as the Lord took care and protected the three men, the friends of Daniel from even the worst of persecutions, the Lord will also stand by our side, that even when we suffer, we will not be alone, and we will walk through and survive even the most challenging trials, by God’s grace, guidance and help. May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen us all that we may ever persevere in faith, at all times. Amen.