12 March 2008 Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent
Daniel 3, 14-20, 91-92, 95; John 8, 31-42 Never Afraid
The purpose of the first reading is to show that the God of Israel protects his people from harm so long as they remain faithful to him. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be burned in a furnace, believed to be a sort of altar of holocaust in front of the golden statue. But neither the three Jewish men were harmed, and even saw a fourth person in the furnace which they believed to be an angel sent by Yahweh. The king then acknowledges a miracle; and he passed a law making it a legitimate religion of his realm, protected by civil authority. It should be noted that Nebuchadnezzar did not become a convert. Then, in the end, the three good men were triumphant in the end and were politically promoted.
“The world is a scary place,” many of my students would say. The Youth Survey of 2006 listed security as a primary concern of many of the young. They are afraid to be victims of violence or theft. Engaging in the world means to be vulnerable and exposed to different elements which may harm us. It is no wonder than many of us take precautionary measures to protect our things and ourselves from harm. But we all know that that is not enough: many victims have also been concious about security too.
However, we have experiences of being protected. Many of those who live close to a volcano affirms that somehow they feel that they are being protected from harm. In the event of an eruption, the men of Camalig, Albay would go around the town praying to our Ina (Mother) for protection. Many of us carry something that reminds us of God’s protective care: a rosary or a holding cross in our pockets, a novena to the Sacred Heart, a palm branch on the wall of our houses believed to keep a house a house from evil forces when prayed with an invocation to Sta. Barbara.
But to a person who do not believe, these are all silly and stupid. Faith is the background of all these practices. We have to be careful though: that we do not rely on objects who cannot protect us --- like the pagan golden statue of the Babylonians --- but on God whose power keep us from evil. This is what I believe to be the source of many people who have believed: they trust God so much, that they are always happy. They are never afraid.