Readings: Daniel 3:14-20. 24-25. 28; John 8:31-42
"They preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own." (Daniel 3:28)
Sergei Eisenstein was one of the greatest of Soviet film directors. He produced a two-part historical epic entitled Ivan the Terrible. There is a scene in the film that depicts something in the Russian Orthodox liturgy – the "Furnace Play". Three youngsters play the part of the three young men of today's first reading. For centuries this liturgical drama was performed on a Sunday known as the "Sunday of the Holy Fathers". In the film, the boys' haunting song was composed by the renowned Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.
Today we have no music or reenactment; we have the story alone. What does it tell us? The three young men represent Judaism's heroic rejection of paganism. Their story was written at a time of ruthless persecution of the Jewish faith under the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The courage of the young men and their miraculous delivery would inspire and give hope to the Jewish people of the second century BC. It would help them be true to the faith of their father Abraham.
In our times, faith requires a special fortitude. We need something of the courage shown by the three young men. Above all, we need the courage of Christ. In the face of mounting danger, he continues to speak the most liberating truth of all. There may be times when we are tempted to lose heart; the three young men are there to inspire us. Christ, our truth, is within us and among us. Courage is a gift he will always share.
Lord God, grant us the courage of your beloved Son. May we never lose heart in our witness to one who is our way, our truth and our life. May we find strength in him and in those who are our brothers and sisters in faith and example. Amen.