Scripture Readings for April 5, 2017
Today’s readings are about the challenge of living what we believe. Both readings pit the believer against the establishment of the time. For Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego the challenge is the pagan god and statue set up by Nebuchadnezzar. In John’s Gospel, Jesus faces a group of Jews, some of whom think as descendants of Abraham they are automatically God’s children.
What stands out for me in Daniel is the comment of Nebuchadnezzar that these men “yielded their bodies” rather than worship a god other than their own. They acted on their faith. The situation they were in was not some theoretical exercise or test to see if they could answer the catechism questions correctly. They lived their faith by the decision they made in that moment. That’s something that is relevant to us. Do we believe enough in the love and mercy of God to make tough decisions when the prevailing authority wants us to do the opposite?
Jesus faces a similar situation with Jews who think their heritage affords them the privileged position. Today this might look like Christians who know their Bible or Catholics who know all the catechism answers. It’s one thing to know about your faith and another thing to actually trust in God day to day. That’s what Jesus is pointing to when he says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.”
The way John presents this argument Jesus sees these people as slaves of sin and therefore not only not free but as children of the evil one. If they were children of God they would recognize Jesus as the authentic voice of God. Today we probably wouldn’t suggest the same dichotomy between believers and non-believers. But it is fair to remind ourselves that faith exists only to the extent we live it. Faith is not primarily a mental exercise. It is trust in a God who shares our lives, loves us, forgives us, and supports us in ways we often may not recognize. The choices we make may not be as dramatic as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego facing a fiery furnace but assuredly they are just as important in making us who we are. Sometime we have to, just do it. Because if we believe in Jesus’ loving God then we too must be loving, forgiving and supportive of others even when it may not seem like such a good idea. There is no other way to be a child of God.