Wednesday of Week 5 of Lent – First Reading

Commentary on Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

Today’s First Reading helps us to see that our lives find their centre in God; all else takes second place. The verses come from a different section of a passage we already saw on Tuesday of the 3rd Week in Lent.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had built a golden statue and commanded all his subjects to bow down in adoration before it as a test of loyalty (this is not unlike the requirement that early Christians had to bow down before an image of the Roman emperor as a sign of abandoning their faith in Christ as Lord). Three young Jewish men in the service of the royal court, and who were particular favourites of the king for their outstanding qualities, refuse to worship the statue. They prefer death rather than turn their back on their God.

In his anger, the king threatens to have them thrown into a white-hot furnace from which no god will save them. The young men calmly reply that either their God will save them, because he can, or, even if he does not, they will still remain steadfast in their trust of God. The king, now even more angry, has them thrown into a furnace which has been made seven times hotter.

Later, when he makes enquiries, the king finds that the three young men, now in the company of a fourth (recognized by the king as an angel), are walking around unscathed in the fire. The pagan king is deeply moved by what he sees. First, he is filled with admiration for the God that delivered them from certain death and, second, he deeply respects the young men who disobeyed him and were ready to sacrifice their lives, rather than turn their back on their God. He exclaims:

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him.

Today’s reading is linked with the Gospel in which Jesus speaks of those who are truly descendants of Abraham. If those attacking him were true descendants, then they would recognise Jesus as truly the Son of God. As it is, they show they are not true descendants.

Reflecting on the First Reading I might ask: What are the idols in my life? Is there anything in my life which I would find very difficult to sacrifice if God asked me to give it up? Is there any thing or any person in my life which comes between God and myself?

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