1 April 2020
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 the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed …
Whenever it is the First of April, there are lots of pranks and jokes everywhere. Today, we can still see jokes around on the internet. Many people are making jokes about how they are near to insanity because of the compulsory home quarantine. Here in Manila, we are obliged to follow the 24/7 home quarantine and only one person is allowed to go out to buy essential things at a specific time. We are under home quarantine until the 14th of April. Many people overreact, thinking their current situation is a deprivation of their freedom. Maybe they are right. They are slaves of their own desire to go out, meet people, and spend their money anyway they want.
Our Gospel for today depicts a deeper meaning of slavery. If you are told by Christ, “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”, what would be your response? We may be like the Jews who answered, “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free?” We are probably not slaves physically. But the reality is, it is not about our status in life. Rather, it is the state of our soul. If we really want to experience freedom, we have to stay away from sins. It is one of the challenges in life. We have to stop tolerating the cliché, “We are all sinners, and there is nothing we can do about it.” We can do something about it. If we go through our Penitential Rite, there is this part: “that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” We sin by our actions. We sin by the words that come out of our mouths. We sin by just thinking ill thoughts. We sin by just doing nothing.
Recall your activities these past couple of days. Have you done anything to hurt others? Have you thought of hurting others? Or, could you have done something to help others?
In this time of pandemic, our actions are very limited. We must use this opportunity for us to not commit sin. By simply obeying the rules of our community, we can commit less sin. Our government is not perfect and there is not much we can do. Instead of giving off negative vibes online, let us join various dioceses in celebrating mass online and other community prayers. This is also the time when people do panic buying. When we buy things, let us reflect if we are buying for the quarantine period or for the whole year. Remember, there are other people who also need to buy things. If you are in a community where there is a relief-giving program, re-evaluate yourself and think if you belong to those who are in dire need. There might be others who might need it more. With the simple act of kindness that we do, we walk away from sin.
(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)
Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. May we continuously have faith that through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we will surpass our current situation. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly God, thank You for our leaders, medical workers, security personnel, and other people who are brave to be front-liners in handling COVID-19. Amen.