1st Reading: Dan 3:14-20. 24-25. 28; Psalm: Dan 3. R. v. 29b; Gospel: Jn 8:31-42.
FORTITUDE IN PERSECUTION
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
One thing that fascinates persecutors of believers for centuries till date is that spirit of perseverance in Christians especially in the face of death. They still cannot explain how someone amidst the beautiful things of this world chooses pain over the pleasures of life. Ordinarily, it is quite easy to understand their surprise because human beings are naturally inclined to positive incentives. No reasonable human person will choose pain over pleasure when faced with these two opposing choices. This defies natural logical explanation.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego brings this reality again before us. These men stood before a heated furnace that can consume their flesh and bones in a matter of minutes but persisted in their faith than yield to the wish of king Nebuchadnezzar. They preferred death to obeying a mere command. One would think that perhaps they would have yielded when the furnace was heated seven times more; but they were not perturbed by this. How can we explain this?
Jesus pointed out in the gospel of today that those who are slaves to sin yield to the passions of sin. By holiness of life therefore we cease to be slaves to sin and become sons and daughters of God yielding to the will of God. This co-operation with God comes with the gift of fortitude. This gift is the strength of Christians in the face of persecution.
Fortitude is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that gives us the firmness of mind to do good and endure evil beyond our human limitations. It takes us beyond the limits of our own courage to persevere in suffering and pain till the end. We all received this gift at our confirmation. And just like these three men in the furnace, we can stand persecution if we co-operate with this gift of the Holy Spirit in us through deepening our faith in holiness of life.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we pray for the grace to co-operate with the workings of the Holy Spirit in us. Amen.