First a bit of background: the three young men, the main characters in today's First Reading from Daniel, were among the Jewish favorites of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He had taken a liking to them and they had been clothed and fed in a finer way than most of their Jewish peers.
After the King had fashioned the golden statue as something to be worshiped, bowing to it also became a symbol of obedience to the King himself. So when he was told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so, he took it as a personal affront as well as merely a refusal to obey his wishes. It was a kind of “after all I've done for you scenario...” You know how a converation goes once you've heard that phrase.
Nebuchadnezzar had the three brought to him and rather than deny the accusation, they embraced it fully. “This is no need for us to defend ourserves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace, may He save us!”
The king was livid and had the furnace turned to seven times its usual heat, the three of them bound, and thrown in. To his amazement, he next saw four men unfettered, unhurt, and walking in the fire. “The fourth,” he said “looked like a Son of God.” Scholars have identified this character as an angel or a manifestation of Christ.
The King is finally left to this exclamation: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach,and Adednego whose servants were willing to yield their bodies rather than worship any god except their own!”
Lent offers the opportunity to identify our personal false gods, i.e. those things, as a recent homilist noted, to which we belong, RATHER than to God: obsession with another person, being connected electronically to…something, the vengeful memory of a past wrong, or “ fill in the blanks.”
Who knows but what our trust to let go of something that no longer serves us well might be rewarded with the gift of a new perspective, a greater sense of freedom, or a greater clarity of ourselves as a Son or Daughter of God?!
The Gospel from John is also filled with Enslavement vs. Love. Jesus warns that we must make room for His word and for Him, Whom God the Father has sent.
May the rest of your Lent emerge with new growth, deep joy, and vibrant and grace-filled surprises!