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Slavery to Sin and Unjust Authority

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

Wednesday, April 1

Readings: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 -- John 8:31-42 == Daniel 3:52-56

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, a lesson in the just and unjust exercise of authority. Nobody had more power than Nebuchadnezzar. He was the King and his word was law. He built a giant idol and ordered all his subjects to worship this false God. He had authority, and he used it unjustly. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey this unjust command, they spoke truth to power and told the king they were content to rest in the love and protection of the one true God. Whether they were physically protected from the flames was not important to them, their obedience to God's command was what mattered -- and thus, their resistance to the unjust demands of this earthly king. Hmmm, what can the Church be saying to us in selecting this reading for today? Certainly there is the message that worship of the true God is important, and worship of idols is wrong, but is there not also a message of courage and fortitude in the face of the unjust demands of temporal governments?

Meanwhile, Jesus is talking to some people who are pretty proud of their heritage and who are rejecting what Christ is saying. Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. Jesus' audience rejected these words. Jesus brings the Word of God -- indeed, he is that Word incarnate in human flesh. His truth brings freedom -- salvation and liberation -- when we hear the Word and become disciples of Christ. Note that there is nothing passive about this -- we are called to remain in the Word and to be disciples of Jesus, with all that that entails, i.e. feeding the hungr, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless (to repetitively repeat something we have heard a lot about during this Lenten season).

Jesus's audience had a lot of pride in their heritage as the children of Abraham. We can fast-forward 2000 years and find the same situation today. Here in the US we would say, "We are the Americans, the Americans, the land of the free and the home of the brave." We continually brag about how this is the best country in the world (as though other people do not love their countries too) and how God is really on our side, especially when we want to pick a fight with somebody. Yet, while declaiming regularly about freedom, we go about enslaved to sexual licentiousness, violence, and greed. We buy our children clothes decorated with the satanic symbols of transnational corporations -- that Nike "swoosh" is painted with the blood of the poor, as is the Disney logo on so much merchandise. Criticizing Catholic bishops is conventional wisdom, but can we doubt what the Fashion Gods have decreed? Not with any degree of safety. Our own president is a confessed adulterer, and while we keep in mind Sunday's Gospel, we must also remember Christ's words: go and sin no more. The truth of the Gospel is able to set us free from all of this bondage -- from lust and greed and power-hunger and idolatry and all the other plagues upon this era.

For Prayer intentions, today we recall the intentions of the Pope for the month of April:

+ That in the second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, the faithful may foster with particular care the spirit of unity and of communion within the Church

+ That the international community may promote and protect the religious, ecological and social rights of the people of Oceania.

Praxis today:

+ Fast and abstain today, and give the money you save thereby to help feed the poor.

+ And today is trash day. Pick up some trash in a public place and dispose of it properly.

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