Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday in the 5th Week of Lent
Freedom in the Flames

Readings: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56; John 8:31-42

None of us are slaves in the literal sense of the word. Neither are those with whom Jesus is conversing in the gospel today. Yet, like them, we find ourselves invited to meditate more deeply on what it really means to be free. According to Jesus, freedom has to do with the truth. And the truth has to do with a relationship with the Son as well as the Father. It has to do with making the Son’s word our home, so as to have an assured place in the Father’s house, and so that, like Jesus, we can continue to obey all that the Father wants of us.

All this sounds quite abstract, until we consider the story in the first reading. Here there are literal slaves and free persons. The Babylonian king is apparently free. He is in a position of great power, able to order his subjects to worship a golden statue on pain of death. The three Israelite boys are apparent slaves. They are prisoners of the king and subject to his will. Yet, as it turns out, the story leads us to see a deeper truth. Even when they find themselves in exile and far from their earthly home, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego continue to make their home in the word of God. Even when in captivity and when faced with torture and execution, they refuse to worship a false god. Even when thrown into the fiery furnace they continue to praise and worship the only true God and no other. To you glory and praise forevermore. And their fidelity is rewarded. Isn’t this an illustration of what Jesus speaks about in the gospel, a striking image of true freedom? And doesn’t this also point to what awaits Jesus’ as he continues to remain faithful to His Father even unto the fire of the cross?

Again, none of us are slaves in the literal sense of the word. But how many of us are truly free? How many of us are able to continue praising the one true God of our Lord Jesus Christ even when the fires of our lives threaten to engulf and to consume us? Sometimes these fires are quite easily put out. Stressful jobs can be changed, drugs can cure a minor illness, and a close friend can lend a listening ear. But there are also fires that rage beyond our control, and times when the temptation is strong to give in to despair and to worship false gods. Especially at times like these we realize our own weakness, our own need for God. We realize why we need this season of Lent and the great celebration of Easter to which it leads. We need to allow God to strengthen us once again in the mystery of the cross of Christ, so that we may truly make His word our home, and so come to know the truth that alone can set us free.

What are the fires in your life? Where is your home?

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