10 April 2019
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.’
If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed
I admit that I am a slave to my preconceptions, biases, habits, preferences and yes, you guessed it, sins.
In the Gospel today, it says: “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.”
As a cradle Catholic, I took so much for granted. Sometimes during homilies, my mind often wandered and started planning what to have for lunch after and so on and so forth. I heard the words, but I wasn’t really listening. I didn’t internalize what Jesus was saying. His words fell on deaf ears.
Sometimes if the homily caught my attention, I affirmed myself in my mind. Saying to myself, “See, I’m not that bad, I don’t do that and that…” By doing the minimum, I thought I was good enough. I may have learned the truth, but I did not internalize it into my being and practice what Jesus taught. I was a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what teachings I wanted to accept. It wasn’t any wonder that I still felt trapped at times. Shackled to the same old habits, unable to break free.
Then an occasion arose where someone has gravely wronged me, and I couldn’t bring myself to forgive. I felt justified in my anger and desired justice and retribution. Even though Jesus tells us that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven, and to love others; I found that really hard to do and insisted on staying angry and hurt. That only brought more misery. I knew it was not humanly possible for me to change my stance and prayed for the grace of forgiveness. When I actually relinquished control and listened to Jesus, internalizing His word, I felt the chains were broken. I was no longer under the effects of the wrong done to me. I could move on. That is the power of Jesus’ word, it has the power to set us free.
At times, it may seem that what Jesus teaches is really hard to do or achieve, and may often seem counter-intuitive. But if you would only follow and trust in Him, you will see that He is the true liberator, the one that can free us from our sins, from ourselves. Jesus is God, who can achieve what is humanly impossible. For Him, everything is possible. Jesus, I trust in you.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to break out of the bondage of our own making, by relying on Your grace and Your word.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us enough to send Your Son to rescue us and to free us.