Daily Reflection
November 24th, 2003
Dennis Hamm, S.J.
Theology Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20

Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Luke 21:1-4

Today we are confronted with three examples of risky—even costly—choices made by people trying to be faithful to their God. There’s the story from Daniel about the four Hebrew lads going vegetarian rather than “breaking kosher” by eating at the Babylonian king’s table. Then there is the widow praised by Jesus for contributing her two “mites.” Finally, there is the example of the Vietnamese martyr Andrew Dung Lac and his 116 companions, killed in the middle 1800s simply for being Catholic in the wrong place and time.

Picked by their captor to be trained as royal servants in the Babylonian court, Daniel and his buddies chose to abstain from the rich fare offered them, and to limit themselves to vegetables—all in the name of being faithful to Israel’s covenant relationship with God. They turned out to be better looking and stronger than those who went with the full Babylonian menu. The point of course was not to promote vegetarianism but to show that trusting in God works out best in the end.

As for the widow contributing her two pennies, you could argue that Jesus was pointing her out as an example of the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy, since, in the preceding verse, Jesus had just condemned the scribes for “devouring” the houses of widows. But, given Jesus congratulation of the poor and his “woe” to the wealthy in his Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-26), he is more likely praising the woman for her generosity, her willingness to give out of her poverty “her whole livelihood” (panta ton bion).

Saint Andrew Dung Lac is not a household name for me; so I had to look him up. He is one of 117 Catholics who were martyred in Hanoi between 1820 and 1862. They were eight bishops, fifty priests, fifty-eight lay people, and one seminarian. Two dozen of them were expatriates from France and Spain who cast their lot with the Vietnamese church during these troubled times of the persecution under Ming-Mang.

In the relative peace and security of life here in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A., these examples of “keeping kosher,” giving the last penny, and facing persecution may not seem to challenge us directly. Oddly, though, I find myself challenged to eating with a little more gratitude and restraint, managing more carefully the money I am given to use, and living more deliberately the faith that others have died for.


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