5th Wednesday of Lent, March 29, 2023
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; (Ps) Dn 3:52-56; Jn 8:31-42
How difficult it is sometimes to understand what altar we are standing in front of. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew very well what altar they were in front of. They were in front of King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden altar. And they knew very well what would happen if they didn’t bend a knee to him. But they stood firm and allowed themselves to be thrown into a fiery furnace. One seven times hotter (which in biblical terms is way hotter than we can imagine), than normal. Yet, in that fire, they remained untouched. When Nebuchadnezzar looked in, he not only saw the three of them, he saw a fourth person in there protecting them and preventing them from being harmed. It was only then that Nebuchadnezzar recognized the power of God and repented. Later on, in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar pronounces that there is no other God than the God of these three men. It is quite a story of denial, then belief, and then repentance.
As I said, it is difficult to know these days what we are standing in front of. We are constantly hounded by the altars of narcissism through secular humanism. We are told life is worthless and God’s plan for male and female is wrong. No worries, your sin is really not sin if you don’t believe it is. And God? Well, that is just a figment of man’s imagination. And then, in the end, when you die, it is all good if you were just a good person. Except, there is a problem with all of this, because how can you be a “good” person when there is an absence of good and evil? Oh, it’s all “good,” right?
I think Jesus nailed this one with His statement, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin, is a slave to sin.” Maybe that is the problem with our world today, no one recognizes sin. They’ve all been sinning so long that it becomes comfortable. Enough so that we don’t even feel the effects of our bad behavior. Our sin becomes lukewarm, and then eventually becomes cold. Once we hit that point, nothing else matters and we sin some more. We then trick ourselves, (or Satan tricks us), into believing things that are not true. We sink lower and lower, until we end up in a fiery furnace, one that we have little chance of escaping. But, we have hope, and Jesus nails it again, “So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.”
If you find yourself in that fiery furnace, remember what our three friends above did. Know that they will only serve the one true God. Turn away from all those altars set before you and turn toward God and know the difference between good and evil. Today is a day set aside for repentance, forgiveness, and for turning back to God. Take advantage of it, seek forgiveness, repent, and walk out of the fiery furnace unscathed so you can truly be free. “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our Fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever!”