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April 12, 2010

Zeal & The Fiery Furnace

The first reading at Mass today is one that sounds so faintly familiar to us because of the names of the three characters in it.... Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were the ones ultimately thrown into the fiery furnance by King Nebuchadnezzar because they wouldn’t fall down and worship the statue that the King himself admits that he made... How’s that... the king had the statue made and he’s issuing orders that when the music starts from all the musical instruments -- everyone must stop what they’re doing and worship this 60 ft. or so statue.

The three didn’t worship the statue and they ended up in the fire. I prayed about this reading... asking for help on this and the Gospel. What to reflect on? What to share as a message from what seems like a strange story of little relevance to modern man and woman?

Then it came to me. I had just finished an interview with a pretty well-known manager at Franciscan University. Our talk - my interview with him was on the topic of zeal. Well today’s reading from Daniel is a mytho-literary device to share with us that zeal for the one true God will allow a good person to enjoy and benefit from God’s care... no matter what happens around them.

Take for example, our late Holy Father John Paul II. He was such a wonderful leader. Alas, many Catholics will nod at that statement but not avail themselves of his teachings, his writings. For example -- at the conclusion of the great jubilee year of 2000, John Paul II gave us an Apostolic Letter called Novo Millennio ineuente.

This letter is a reflection on the years past and encouragement for action at the beginning of the new millennium. He wrote that we are to have a true meeting and relationship with Jesus Christ.

As an example of the fire that he said was needed -- JPII floated the idea of World Youth Day... When the Holy Father launched the idea of World Youth Day, many critical voices were raised, some even hoped that this papal initiative would be a failure. Many analysts said that the youth were not aware of history and suffering... Others evoked the memories of Vietnam protests and Woodstock and sexual promiscuity among young people.

What happened was that the world... the Catholic Church... the proponents of not doing anything different soon found that young people wanted to be committed to truth and to a faith with zeal and relevance.

Some still poo-poo working with young people because even if they go to some exciting event and feel spiritually moved -- they go home and go right back into their sinful ways... This isn’t categorically true... Many go back to find that sin has lost it’s flavor... sin is recognized as having consequences.... When I sit in Masses with half of the people not singing... many arriving late... some leaving early... more than half not going to Reconciliation... I think that what we need is to pray them into the furnace of God’s love and  ask an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. And dear friends -- you and I are called to be in the furnace with them... with zeal and enthusiasm and not worrying about whether we look or act different than other worshipers. Today’s Scripture tells us that when our zeal is roaring with intensity, another will be added to our joyous and zeal-filled celebration -- another who looks very much like the Son of God.

Reading I
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
King Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?
Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,
“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.”
King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual
and had some of the strongest men in his army
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
and cast them into the white-hot furnace.
Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles,
“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him;
they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies
rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God.”

Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
R.        (52b)  Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”
R.        Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R.        Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R.        Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim;
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R.        Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.”
R.        Glory and praise for ever!

Jn 8:31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

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