28Mar 28 March. Wednesday of Week 5 of Lent

Daniel 3:14ff. Trust in God no matter what; He will save us from the fiery furnace.

John 8:31ff. Jesus promises his disciples that the truth will make us free.

Only One Can Save Us

The young men in the book of Daniel follow their conscience and put their trust in God no matter what happens: “If our God can save us, may he save us! But even if he will not, O king, we will not serve your God!” With unimaginable serenity they accept the consequences. “There is no need,” they said, “for us to defend ourselves.” The issue is very clear; there is no other choice but integrity. Then God saved them from being consumed in the super-heated furnace and  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed: “Blessed be the God  who sent his angel to deliver the servants that trusted in him.”

Jesus, too, always acted with integrity, doing “the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). Yet, unlike the young men in the fiery furnace, Jesus was not saved from the violent death of crucifixion. However, even such a death was the answer to his prayers. As contradictory as this seems, “he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when perfected he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebr 5:7-9)

By such obedience Jesus manifests his divine sonship. “I did not come of my own will; it was he who sent me.” Jesus’ eternal life in the unity of the Holy Trinity consisted in being continuously begotten by the Father. His response, “I obey” constituted his essential life, his “I Am”. He had no other mode of existence. Our own whole existence as disciples of Jesus flows from clinging to his spirit of integrity. As is said in today’s gospel: “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

At crucial moments in our lives we may be expected to be heroic. In fact we have no other choice that to act like the young men in the book of Daniel. If we can respond with fearless obedience, that most divine part of ourselves, our truest self emerges most fully, most divinely. If as in the case of Jesus our prayer to be saved is heard through the act of dying, we are being saved for eternal life.

First Reading: Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counsellors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.”

He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”

Gospel: John 8:31-42

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.