Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2020)

01 April, 2020
Wednesday, Week 5 of Lent

Saint Ceallach (Celsus), bishop (opt. Memorial)

1st Reading: Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25

Trusting in God, they are saved from the fiery furnace

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up."

Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counsellors, "Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?" They answered the king, "True, O king."

He replied, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god."

Responsorial: from Daniel 3

Response:To you be glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
 praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
 And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
 praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. (R./)

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
 praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. (R./)

Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
 praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. (R./)

Blessed are you who look into the depths
 from your throne upon the cherubim;
 praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. (R./)

Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
 praiseworthy and glorious forever. (R./)

Gospel: John 8:31-42

Jesus promises that the truth will make us free

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, "You will be made free"?"

Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father."

They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does." They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

BIBLE

May your words, O Lord, be in my thoughts, on my lips, and in my heart. May they be my guide on life's journey and keep me near to you.

What can save us?

In this drama from the book of Daniel the young men put their trust in God, no matter what may happen: "If our God can save us, may he save us! But even if he will not, O king, we will not serve your God!" With amazing serenity they accept the consequences of keeping faithful to their Jewish traditions. "There is no need," they said, "for us to defend ourselves." The issue is very clear to them; they choose integrity at all costs. Then God saved them from being consumed in the furnace and led Nebuchadnezzar to exclaim: "Blessed be the God who delivers the servants that trust in him." Jesus, too, acted with integrity, doing "the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30). Yet, unlike the young men in the fiery furnace, he was not saved from the violent death of crucifixion. However, even in such a death the Father in heaven was answering his prayers. Strange as it seems, Jesus "was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when perfected he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (Hebr 5:7-9)

Unconditional, trusting obedience was at the centre of Jesus' relationship with the Father. "I did not come of my own will; it was he who sent me." As Saint John describes Jesus, utter trust in the Father was at the core of Jesus' life, his basic approach to life. Our own identity as Christian disciples is meant to be similarly based. In today's gospel Our Lord assures us: "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." At crucial moments in life we may be severely tested as were the young men in the book of Daniel, or as Jesus himself was. If we can respond with loyalty, our true self will emerge most fully, for we have the power to become children of God. And in our final act of dying, we will be saved by him for eternal life.


Truth will make you free

Across the centuries, philosophers and writers have often pondered and dissected the ideal of truth, which is so basic for our knowledge, for trust and for communication. Perhaps the most notorious distortion of the ideal of truth was the Nazi slogan "Work makes free" that hung over the gates of their concentration camps. Keeping people in prison with a false hope of release was the depth of inhuman disrespect. In our own day, we notice countless versions of the truth competing on the social media. Computers and smartphones provide a convenient platform for everyone to have their say. Pressure-groups and politicians often try to impose their own "truth" over what they dub as "False News" from other sources. So it is more important than ever to embrace truth as a major value, and pray to the Holy Spirit to help us distinguish truth from falsehood of all kinds.

In today's gospel, Jesus declares, "the truth will make you free." A little later he will say of himself, "I am the truth." Jesus, in other words, blesses us with true freedom. As if to confirm this he says, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." It is through Jesus that we gain "the glorious freedom of the children of God." It is Our Lord, and the Holy Spirit that he pours into our hearts, that gives us power to live as God intends us to live, and bring out what is best and deepest in us. True freedom is the freedom to love, the freedom to share ourselves as Jesus di - he who was "The man for others." We pray for this freedom during these final weeks of Lent, so that we can love the truth and live in the light of truth.


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