Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28

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 his 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.
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John 8:31-42

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 from God; yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.”

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If someone put a loaded gun to your head and ordered you to worship him as god otherwise he would kill you, would you be free to say ‘no’? Not if you value your life on earth. If you wanted to live, then you could not say ‘no’; you’d have to say ‘yes’. Since you are not free to say ‘no’, then you are not free to say ‘yes’ either.

In order to be free to say ‘yes’ to someone, you must have the freedom to say ‘no’ and walk away without consequence. In such a case, you are not free.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were free. They were free to disobey King Nebuchadnezzar because they were ready to die for their faith if they had to. They could have said ‘yes’ to their king, but they still chose to say ‘no’. Because they could choose to say ‘no’ and they did choose that, they were free indeed.

Today’s first reading reminds me of something I read this morning in ZENIT. Josef Mayr-Nusser is known as a “martyr of the First Commandment”. He was sentenced to death by the Nazis for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hilter. He too was a free man.

In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us that anyone who commits a sin is not free anymore. Why? Because a person who has sinned is one who is slave to his own desires and passions. He is not free because he cannot say ‘no’ to his own desires and passions. Because he cannot say ‘no’ to them, his ‘yes’ to give in to his desires and passions means nothing.

Confused? Okay, take this example of an addict to pornography. Now addicts are people who are slaves to their desires. They must have their supply of porn otherwise they cannot function. In other words, they cannot say ‘no’ to porn. Addicts who deny that they are addicted to porn will tell you, “I am not addicted. I just choose to watch porn because I like it.” But that is a lie. Why? Because he cannot say ‘no’ to porn. Since he cannot say ‘no’ to porn, he is not free, and his ‘yes’ means nothing. He is not choosing anything; he is a slave to his addiction.

In the gospel reading, the Jews want to kill Jesus. They too are slaves of their own desires. They are not sons of Abraham or sons of God. They are slaves. Jesus is the true Son of Abraham, Son of God. If they listened to him and made space in their hearts for him, he will take away their sins and they will then be free to choose instead of being slave to their desires.

Jesus is therefore asking us today, to make space in our hearts for his word, so that he can set us free. He wants us to be free to choose, free to choose God’s will in our lives.
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Prayer:
Dear Jesus, please enter into our hearts of stone and change them into hearts of flesh. Bring us the freedom we need to make a loving choice in our lives. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Being made aware of the evil presence in my life.

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