In today’s first reading (Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Dn. 3:14-20, 91-92, 95), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are cast into the white hot furnace by order of King Nebuchadnezzar, during the Babylonian exile. Other than the time of slavery in Egypt and the Holocaust of WWII, the Babylonian exile is the most hear breaking, heart wrenching time of suffering in the history of the children of Abraham. For fifty years the Hebrew people suffered oppression and isolation. The whole book of Daniel is testimony to hope in the face of suffering.
Before they are thrown into the fire, the three men are asked to worship foreign gods or face execution; they entrust themselves entirely to YHWH, the one true God, saying:
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.
By God’s grace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego survived the white hot furnace; the missing verses actually show them dancing and praising God in hymns and inspired songs, including the beautiful Canticle of All Creation. Their faith, and God’s saving power at work in them bring King Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge YHWH as true God. Now here is the thing, they did not know they would be saved, yet they persevered in faith and trusted God’s will.
This is not easy. It is impossible without God’s grace. The same power that spared these three disciples is the same power which raised Jesus from the grave; the same power which is at work in you even now. Let us together trust God’s power at work in us during this our exile. Our whole life is from God, in Christ, and our life is eternal. Nothing can separate us from the love of god poured out in Christ Jesus. It is because of this true faith of ours that we can say, even now, in exile, from the white hot furnace, “Give God the glory!” Let our eyes be open to the many signs of God’s love fully present even now.
We will continue our procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Friday at 6:00 pm. Our path this Friday will be from Church, east on Delor, north on Gustine, east on Meramec, south on Grand and west on Delor back to the Grotto. God bless you all. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.