Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
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.”
Good News Reflection:
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus invites us to rise above the cross of ignorance about God’s trustworthiness. “If you live according to my teachings,” he says, “you are truly my disciples. And since you are interested in learning from me, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Free to do what?
It’s very freeing to live according to the teachings of Christ, even when they seem unpleasant or illogical, because his ways are always the best ways — and we don’t have to get stressed out trying to figure it out!
It seems detrimental to forgive those who don’t deserve it, but such unconditional love sets us free from the lingering pain of old grudges and anger and anxiety and fear.
Retaliation makes matters worse. Arguing is a form of retaliation. Even the “silent treatment” is a form of retaliation. When we’re willing to do good to our enemies instead of scheming ways to retaliate, we are free from the worry that the problem will escalate.
Loving our enemies means living by the teachings that take us to the cross. It doesn’t make sense to put ourselves through the fire of suffering love, but this is true holiness. Rescued from the slavery of sin, we’re free to be holy through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
This requires trust. We have to trust that (A) God knows what he’s doing and will make us triumphant over evil, and (B) the end result will be better than we could possibly imagine.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this kind of trust (today’s first reading). What are the fires in your life? The easy way out leads to slavery. Short-cuts produce the wrong results, the wrong jobs, the wrong relationships, the wrong decisions that lead to disaster — all of which imprison us in our grudges, anger, fears, anxieties and frustrations.
The faith-filled way is to walk with Jesus in the fire until the flames burn themselves out. Jesus endured the fire of Good Friday, because he trusted that it would produce the boundless joy of resurrection victory. To follow Jesus as a true disciple, we have to accept the cross for the sake of victory. It’s an unpleasant truth, but it sets us free to enjoy life despite the hardships.
Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were visited in the fire by someone “like a son of God”, so, too, does Jesus stay close by our side within our fires. In the fire is where we rely on him the most. In the fire is where we experience the supernatural. In the fire is where we die with him so that we are raised to a gloriously holier life, where God himself praises us for our faithfulness, and where we join Jesus in full, intimate unity.
So, instead of searching for a way out of the fires you’re enduring, search for the presence of Jesus within those fires. Embrace him. Stand firm with him. Give him your trust.
My Lord, grant me the grace to discover in You true freedom. Help me to be an attentive disciple of Your Word, and lead me to be docile and obedient. Amen.