Readings: Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25,28, Daniel 3:52-56, John 8:31-42

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to answer you. If so, the God we serve can deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

Once again, we come across the beautiful story of three teenagers, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, inspired by mature faith in God, defied the King’s orders, choosing death for life. In our Gospel passage, the Jews openly confront Jesus. The Jews were determined to kill Jesus (just as Nebuchadnezzar wanted to kill the boys), not knowing that death was not the end but only the beginning of a greater life. The three Hebrew boys entered the fire as slaves of the King, but when they came out of the fiery burning furnace, they became gods to the King. Jesus willingly embraced death on the cross, but when He came out of the fire of death, He shone brightly. In other words, what you fear the most can turn you into a star. This brings us to our lessons for today:

1. Like Rainfall and Sunshine, Trials Are Part of Life: Can you imagine life without trials (challenges, difficulties, puzzles, nightmares, etc.)? Even though we secretly wish for such an untroubled life, it doesn’t exist. Moreover, God will not be so unkind to give it to us. One who has never tasted something bitter will never appreciate sweet things. We must appreciate the Nebuchadnezzars around us; they make life tough, keep us on our toes, and help us exercise our spiritual muscles. Many go to the gym to “punish” themselves to keep fit. Trials are God’s way of sending us to the spiritual gym to prevent us from spiritual sicknesses. An untested faith is simply an imaginary faith.

2. Like Gold, Faith Shines When Tested by Fire: I once read the story of a Muslim who shouted: “Blood of Jesus”. The Flight Captain announced that the passengers should prepare for a crash. Everyone started saying their last prayers. That was when they noticed the Muslim man praying to Jesus. It is during a trial that you discover what you truly believe in. Unless you are tempted, you can never tell what your values are. Trials like those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego help us assess where we stand with God. Don’t brag about your faith; mention the battles you have fought and won.

3. Trials Are Not For Us Alone: If Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had attempted to preach to Nebuchadnezzar (and all the people in whose land they dwelt as captives), it would have taken forever to convert him. With the burning furnace experience, it was automatic. Whatever you are going through now is not for you alone. Even your so-called enemies today will testify how God fights for you. The story of your perseverance will become therapy for others. You are suffering now, yet because of you, millions will not need to experience this pain anymore. Many Israelite captives who were scared of practising their faith in Babylon found the boldness to worship God again after the miraculous deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

4. Remember God While You Are Still Young (Ecclesiastes 12:1): Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were teenagers, yet their uncommon courage and unshakable faith make them seem like old men. They had mature faith; they were ready to die even if God did not save them. Many adults today are yet to graduate into the stage of mature faith; they still operate on the level of childish faith – “God, if you do it for me, I will serve you. If you don’t do it, I will abandon you, stop talking to you or stop obeying your commands.” It takes time to grow a mature faith. That is why you must start now.

5. Fear is Slavery (Self-Imprisonment): Fear is normal. All humans, including Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, get scared often. The problem is when we reach conclusions or make decisions based on fear. Fear is like a slave-rider. The slave is stronger than the master yet worships the master because he thinks the master is more powerful. We consent to sin because we are scared of losing something (or dying). We know it isn't good, yet we keep doing it. We are like slaves who hate their master yet melt in his presence. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples … (but) … everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:31&34). To overcome sin, we must be ready to face our fears head-on, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If putting an end to this sin (mention your sins) will kill me, let me die; let me burn in the furnace. This is when God steps in as the fourth man in the furnace.

6. Fatherhood is Not Only by Biology: Jesus argued with the Jews in today’s Gospel passage because they claimed to be children of Abraham but were not behaving like Abraham. Your biological father/mother may be a saint, but if you don’t behave well, their prayers will not secure you an automatic ticket to heaven.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, let not my love for life enslave me to sin. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent. Bible Study: Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25,28, Daniel 3:52-56, John 8:31-42).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu