BY ANDREW SHAHAMIRI | April 10, 2019
Today’s Readings

In today’s readings we find people with their backs pressed up against a wall. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the wall turns out to be a fiery furnace stoked “seven times more than usual” as retribution for their defiance of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. For Jesus, the wall takes the form of an obstinate crowd that seeks to publicly disgrace and deny him. A little later on in John 8:59, we learn that this intransigent crowd eventually turns hostile as it attempts to stone Jesus.

Yet, the heroes of our readings today do not succumb to the pressures of having their backs pushed up against the wall. Facing the flames of their death, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldy hold fast to their faith, telling the king, “we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.” And Jesus holds his ground amongst the crowd, imploring them that his message is “the truth [that] will set you free.”

These readings draw our attention to the centrality and vitality of spiritual freedom. What seems at stake is the freedom that opens us up to truth. It compels me to ask, in this stripped down desert of Lent, a probing question: what gods and idols do I sacrifice to rather than to the Living God who promises me true and lasting freedom?

We are surrounded by idols today. Let me share with you some that I find myself sacrificing to:—money, which if I’m not careful can become how I measure my worth and the worth of others; luxury and comfort, which anesthetizes and separates me from the pain and suffering of my brothers and sisters in this broken world.

Social media, which, however shiny and fun, eats up too much of my time and can slowly replace my Gospel values with vanity, superficiality, and comparative despair.

Today’s readings remind me that when my back is pressed up against the wall and the world asks me to serve these gods and idols, I can respond like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who prefer to dance along with Jesus in the flickering white-hot flames. Even for us Lenten series readers and people of good will, the question stares us in the face: who do you serve? And what keeps you from, with reckless abandon, jumping into the fire with Christ?

6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Patricia Layden says:

    What keeps me from “jumping into the fire…” is a kind of exhaustion. As I approach my 80th birthday I find I want to let go of striving of any kind. I want to relax into the present with my heart open, but without feeling a need to “do” something about avoiding or approaching any particular thing. I find enough stuff for me to work on just shows up without my having to think too much about it. It’s enough to just pay attention.

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    George Bur says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for all of your efforts with the young men on that beautiful campus in Sacramento! And Patricia, too. I am nearly 80 like you. You have it correct. I am blessed to be at a place where quite “enough stuff”, good stuff comes if I just pay attention. But my experiences with Christ and his Church responding directly to inequities and suffering is now more limited.

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    Kristin Shewfelt says:

    It is the Gospel reading that most troubles me as it easily translates for many into the early anti-Semitism of early Christianity that blossomed in a most evil way in the centuries that followed. How do we deal with this powerful subcurrent of anti-Semitism in the church today?

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      Marjorie Larney says:

      Thank you for bringing up anti-Semitism in the Gospel reading. I’m 82 and I remember when during the first Arab-Israel War a Catholic school boy told me a so-called joke, “Pennies for the Jews, nickels for the Arabs.” I was shocked because my Aunt Clare was married to my favorite uncle a Jewish man who like our Irish-American family was from Brooklyb, NY. Now ant-Semitism is on the rise again in the US and Europe. More needs to be done to fight against it. Coincidentally, I’m listening to Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America that also is shocking because it’s ncredibly prescient of what’s happening now in the US at the highest levels. A friend who is a Holocaust survivor recommended to me Madeline Albright’s book Fascism. My friend said to me, ! Iived so I know.” Pope Francis speaks out but every Catholic should speak out against the resurgence of anti-Semitism and white nationalism. After all, Jesus was a Jew and a person of color. “What would Jesus do,” as the popular Catholic children’s bracelets ask.

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  4. Avatar
    Angie says:

    My suffering will not be a fire pit, so what will it be? Physical? Emotional?
    I am praying and suffering emotionally over one of my daughters attending a non Catholic Church now. It is a deep pain. I’m trying so hard to just pray and let God take care of it. In praying God asked me ( when I asked what I should do). “Are you willing to suffer”
    I could not say “yes” immediately! I asked for time to think about it! I asked for an example of what He had in mind!
    My spiritual director told me to just give myself to Him, and let Him take care of it. Trust!

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