Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
During my junior year in high school, I was preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. My pastor suggested that my two friends and I took the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (who all appear in today’s first reading from the Book of Daniel). One of my friends really wanted to take the name Shadrach, because he thought it “sounded cool.” My other friend and I were arguing on who would get the name Meshach, but since neither one of us liked the name Abednego, and we couldn’t all agree, we ended up taking different names.
Regardless of the strange names, the powerful example of these men is undeniable. They are presented with an unsavory decision to make: worship this golden statue or burn to death in this white-hot fiery furnace. Would we have blamed them if they had bowed down to the statue, pretending to pay homage, in order to save their lives? They didn’t give in King Nebuchadnezzar’s evil demands, but they remained firm in worship to the one true God.
We are often backed into a corner and pressured in our faith in ways that do not involve the threat of death. In our struggles, very often evil does not have to tempt us all that hard or threaten us with a death sentence in order for us to cave in and worship false gods. The sad reality is that the devil knows that he can often cause us to give in to sin with far less effort. Many people give into sin simply because they don’t feel like choosing the good. Similarly, we might give in to temptation simply to win the acceptance or affirmation of our friends.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “Even if God will not save us from the fire, know that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue.” They trust completely in God, but even more, they don’t attach conditions to how God should act or treat them. Sometimes we say: “I’ll follow you, God, only if…only if I get what I want…only if it’s easy…only if I’m happy or fulfilled. True prayer frees us from such attachments or expectations. True prayer is an act of surrender.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego can only voice this type of faith because their hearts were prepared. Before they were even faced with such an awful dilemma, they had made that decision over and over again: We will serve the Lord! These men acted with freedom, and we will only find true freedom in Jesus Christ. Give God everything—all your thoughts, desires, hopes, your fears, your future, the sins you keep hidden away—give it all to God. He will deliver you in the way He sees fit.
Reflection Question: What do you need to sacrifice, or patiently endure, in order to follow God?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB