“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up”
(Daniel 3: 17-18)
The Story of the Fiery Furnace from the Book of Daniel provides a powerful example of faith and insight into the nature of Christian freedom and hope that we are called to live in.
This reply in Daniel by three faithful Jews to the King is a great declaration of faith, but the true nature of what is being said can be overlooked relatively easily on first reading. The vital point here is that these men are not saying that they will be protected but go further to say that God may or may not save them, but what matters is that His will be done.
This message can be unpacked in and of itself but if we explore it in light of the Gospel it becomes more powerful again by far. The whole Gospel, in clarifying the place of love and law, puts this story in a new light, but it might be more useful to take a smaller bite for now. Specifically our focus comes from John 8:32, which the Church places alongside this story in our Missal during the Easter season. For “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Looking at the story of the Fiery Furnace alongside this promise we gain a better understanding of both. From Daniel we know that freedom is no airy-fairy concept, freedom is real, radicle and demands action. Freedom is not simply the idea that God will protect us from harm, but consists of placing ourselves fully in His hands, come suffering or joy, deliverance or great trial. Christ reveals to us the essence of the truth, teaching in word and deed that the truth is nothing less than that that God loves us.
It is here, in God’s love, that our freedom is found. This Christian freedom comes from the profound knowledge and assurance that the Alpha and Omega, the Master and Creator loves us and that this is all that matters. In this assurance we can face anything and know that we are safe, among pain and struggle we are safe, even unto death we are safe. Without this faith even the smallest of obstacles would overcome us, but with it we are able to walk atop even the most violent of waters.
Of course even if we understand that God loves us on a mental level our lives will not instantly become saintly and courageous, and no one is expecting this! As in all else God leads us gently to His truth in this area and removes even our shackles with a tender touch. On this journey we will stumble, doubt, stray and advance only bit by bit, but God expects nothing of us and only offers Himself constantly on the way.
The way to knowing and living our freedom in Christ is a long one, but we are not without aid. Here God provides for us rich help in prayer, in adoration and communion, in fellowship and community and in learning by the example of Saints and Martyrs we can gain strength a little at a time to claim our freedom, and the joy of each surrender urges us on to the next.
As put so beautifully by St Therese of Lisieux “Jesus has chosen to show me the only way that leads me to ... love; it is the way of childlike self-surrender, the way of a child who sleeps, afraid of nothing, it its father’s arms” - St Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul.
Llywellyn is a 19 year old Canberra boy, he was baptised as an Anglican, blessed by a Buddhist and raised nothing in particular; brought into the Church only for a better chance at getting into Marist College Canberra. It was here through the Brothers, teachers and his Mother that Jesus made His move. Llywellyn was swept off his feet and even through struggles with his sin, pride and weakness he fell more deeply in love with Christ and His Church day by day. He is currently a youth and hospital minister, co-ordinator of Young Marists Canberra and a student.