Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Today happens to be my 40th birthday. This is the birthday when you start getting the over the hill jokes. I guess itís supposed to be middle-aged, but I come from pretty long-lived stock. I still have three grandparents alive and in their eighties; I expect to last more than forty more years, so Iím not ready to call myself middle-aged yet. But forty still feels like a milestone of sorts, and like Dante in The Inferno I recently taught in my literature class, midway through my lifeís journey, I am thinking about my path and where it is leading me.
In todayís readings we have people who are on the right path, and people who think they are, but theyíre not really. Part of the problem with life is that itís sometimes hard to tell whether youíre on the right path, especially when youíre in the middle of the path. As my class has been discussing The Inferno, Iíve been telling them that part of Danteís message is that anything you put in your life before God is sin, so that may be a good way to gauge the path. Is God foremost in your life, and is the path one that leads to God? Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego put God first in their lives. When faced with execution, they said they would only worship God. When told they must worship an idol or be put to death, they didnít test God, but said whatever the outcome, they would only worship God. "There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up." They put nothing before God in their lives and God did save them.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the Jews that His truth will set them free. They were not aware they needed to be set free. They said they came from a long line of free men. They had never been slaves. They thought he was confused and didnít realize to whom he spoke. But he said anyone who sins is enslaved by sin. And all who put anything before God in their lives are sinning. Jesus seems to the Jews to be talking in riddles. He says slaves have no permanent position in the family because they can be sold, but the son cannot be sold from the family, is a permanent fixture, and he as Godís son can ensure their salvation. He talks about family tradition and following the ways of their fathers. They insist that they do this. Abraham is their father and they perform his rituals, God is their father and they follow his ways. They say they are no oneís slaves and they are on the right path: they are putting nothing before God in their lives. But Jesus sees more than they do. They are trying to kill him for telling Godís truth, even though Abraham never did such a thing. And if God is their father, they would not try to kill Godís son. Their perception of their path was not accurate. They thought they were following the right way, but they did not recognize the right way when they saw it.
Midway through my lifeís journey Iím trying to follow the words of
Jesus in the Gospel and make sure I am on the right path. The path
Jesus sets out is one of faith and trust, putting nothing before God in
your life: "If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my
disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
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