The third chapter of the Book of Daniel is the Responsorial Psalm for this whole final week of the Liturgical Calendar before Saturday’s sunset brings about a new beginning with the Advent Season.
This psalm allows us to place our gaze in the visible realities of the sun, moon, stars, the immensity of the water, the grandeur of the mountains, to the varied elements of seasons as we move from hot to cold, light and darkness. Finally, there is a movement of praise to the invisible world, the angels who become this symphony of voices praising God.
In the context of the Book of Daniel, it is the hymn of thanksgiving of the three young Israelites – Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael – who were condemned to die burnt in a furnace for refusing to adore the golden idol of Nebuchadnezzar, but were miraculously preserved from the flames. It is the story of how God chooses Israel as his prized possession and makes a covenant with them.
In the Christian imagination, this psalm is the intimate and universal praise to the Triune God and brings to full expression how the cosmos and all of human history find its deepest meaning in the Risen Christ. How does this apply to us today?
The Church of England recently produced a 60-second clip on The Lord’s Prayer featuring the Archbishop of Canterbury and a variety of Christians from all walks of life. Digital Cinema Media pulled the advert from its scheduled debut to the newest installment of the Star Wars Movie stating that The Lord’s Prayer may offend people of no faith.
To be Christian does not mean that you belong to a comfortable and unoffensive religion. To be Christian is imitate Christ who carries the cross out of love, even for a people that has become indifferent to him, who only want him as long as he does not offend anyone. Catherine of Alexandria understood this vocation as she was tormented on a wheel and beheaded for defending Christianity against Emperor Magnus Maximus.
Be Christian. As the Year of Mercy approaches, be not only Christian, but be merciful. We can foster new ways of being merciful whether it is through a return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, regular recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or works of mercy in the community. Mercy is where love meets suffering. Be Christian and be merciful so that you may proclaim today’s psalm with Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael
As we reach the end of the liturgical year, it points us to an eternal reality that we will all face Christ one day and we will all render an account to him. Keeping this in mind, let us always preach truth. Authentic, joy-filled truth is always proclaimed in charity. For truth without charity is only half the truth.