Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
At an RCIA session I helped lead had a wonderful session where we discussed a variety of questions the candidates and catechumens were asking. One of the queries was to help the candidate understand the Catholic belief in purgatory. At the heart of the discussion we was that in this world we are not perfect yet in heaven we are a glorified body purged of our sinful nature. The process of moving from here to eternity requires us to be purified.
Lent, for those in RCIA and I would argue for all of us is a period of purification and enlightenment. In fact, when one thinks of our Lenten disciplines, fasting at least for me is quite difficult. This self-denial purifies a person’s appetite for excessive food or for whatever else a person is fasting from. Although purification is at times painful, its process often leaves us healthier and holier. What is not always clear at the beginning of the process is what will be the end results?
Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know exactly what would happen if they stood firm in their belief of the God of Israel? On one level, their answer is one of certainty. “We will not serve your God or worship the golden statue which you have set up.” On another level, it was a radical act of faith. It was radical in that they stayed true to what they believed, even if that meant they might lose their lives. They gave themselves completely over to God’s will. How often do we give ourselves over to God that completely? The irony of this reading is that the real purification occurred to the people standing outside the furnace. This illustrates that the Lord’s process of changing hearts often happens in ways unexpected.
In today’s gospel, it is Jesus who is standing firm in his beliefs like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The disciples, who believed in Jesus, argued with his understanding of God’s word. Jesus’ purpose was to challenge the disciples to allow their hearts to be purified. For Jesus, they need to let his “word” have a place inside their hearts. The entrenchment of the disciples was becoming a roadblock to their own spiritual growth. How does our own sinfulness and hardness of heart get in the way of our spiritual growth? Entering fully into the process of being purified means allowing God’s grace to take root in us so that God’s love free us from the bondage of sin.
Lord, open our eyes and hearts so that we might recognize the ways you are trying to purify us. Help us stay true to our Lenten disciplines so that we readily give ourselves completely to Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, one God forever and ever. Amen!
Deacon Michael Montgomery