King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:
‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’
They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’
They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:
‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’
‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:
‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’
So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I was recently invited to help critique a few groups of final year students reading a communications degree in one of the local universities. One of the final year projects focussed on verbal abuse in a relationship. The project struck a chord with me as nearly two decades ago, I was in such a relationship.
Looking back, I know that the person I became while in the relationship was not only a victim of abuse but also became an abuser. It is truly by the grace of God that I chose to break free of that unhealthy bondage and begin anew. I remember feeling so trapped in my own shell back then that I resorted to alcohol and cigarettes to escape my reality. I truly don’t recall what the breaking point was but I knew that I had to consciously choose to free myself in order to be happy again. Today, I am healed because God has blessed me abundantly with a loving, caring partner who possesses a heart of gold and is generous to a fault. Indeed, in choosing to set myself free, I have found the freedom to love and to be loved.
Our Archbishop recently issued a statement about how there is no neutrality in faith. We are either for Christ or not. Many of us cling on to things that, in the grand scheme of things, really do not matter. Power, money, forbidden love, idols (musical, fictional, etc) and many more. I was once a slave to them but again, by the grace of God, I have gradually learnt to break free of the bonds and to live freely in the love of our merciful, heavenly Father. The son who set me free was none other than Fr William, who was then spiritual director at the Catholic Spirituality Centre and who still conducts the CERs. Till then, I had never made such a heartfelt Sacrament of Reconciliation nor experienced such mercy and love from a priest.
Brothers and sisters, God gives us free will to choose. Each and every day, we are given choices at home, at work, with family, with colleagues, with friends, with those who we don’t get along with. And whatever we choose, God already knows what the consequences will be. But God, in all His mercy, is also ready to forgive and to love us in spite of the choices we make. So if you truly want to live free as a son and daughter of God, make a choice to give God a chance to free you. Because He is knocking at the door of your heart. And the doorknob is within, for He will never force His way in.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Lord, guide us each day as we face the choices you put in front of us. Show us the way to your loving and merciful heart.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being there for us.