Wednesday 29 March 2023 5th week of Lent
King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
Daniel 3:52-56 To you glory and praise for evermore.
To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: ‘If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.’ They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied: ‘I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descended from Abraham; but in spite of that you want to kill me because nothing I say has penetrated into you. What I, for my part, speak of is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action the lessons learnt from your father.’ They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them: ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me when I tell you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. What you are doing is what your father does.’
‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered: ‘If God were your father, you would love me, since I have come here from God; yes, I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’
Interior Freedom leads one to discover that even in the most difficult circumstances we possess within ourselves a space of freedom that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee. Without this discovery we will always be restricted in some way and will never taste true happiness. Author Jacques Philippe in his 2007 book Interior Freedom, says, we gain possession of our interior freedom in exact proportion to our growth in faith, hope, and love.
On Monday I went to the Questura having received a letter from them asking me to come back, as the first visit to have my fingerprints copied did not work. I was the last to arrive and waited maybe an hour. When I got upstairs, they asked for my original documents, which of course I had given them the first time I went for my fingerprints. But I don’t think they understood me and asked me to come back with my original documents next week. On the way home a confrere asked how my time at the Questura went. So, I told him and said I’d go back next week. “Aren’t you annoyed”, he asked, “no”, I said, “it will be okay”. He commented on my equanimity [equanimità] – that calm and evenness of mind we can have even in times of stress.
In my life, equanimity is a sign of spiritual maturity and growth. It especially tells me that my focus is on God and my trust is in the ways of God’s Spirit. We pray a special prayer for equanimity during the communion rite each day, “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
I look at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the narrative from Daniel. They maintain their composure, calm and equanimity as they are being threatened with terrible suffering. I think of Sheila Cassidy the British doctor who in 1971 at the age of thirty-five went to Chile to work in a shanty town clinic. There she rediscovered her faith and found happiness, and then was arrested and tortured as she was caught up in the violence of the Pinochet regime. Her book called Audacity to Believe traces the equanimity that grew in her as she found comfort in her faith in God.
In the Gospel, Jesus’ adversaries lose their equanimity when they feel they need to defend their heritage in Abraham. Defensiveness makes us slaves to our own emotional investments. It points us to our insecurities. There is a strong correlation between defensiveness and interior insecurity.
The remarkable clarity and composure we see in Jesus tells us that his fundamental relationship with the Father is unshakeable and secure. His equanimity stems from his certainty about who he is, and who God is. Jesus has complete interior freedom. In John 5:31 Jesus says, “As for human approval, this means nothing to me.” It is only the father’s word that matters to him.
Let us also set our eyes solely on Jesus and on his Father. [Psalm 62] “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”