“We have reason…to humble ourselves and never to think much of ourselves since we are so frail and inconstant.” (IC 1,22,6) | “For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins.” (Dn 3:37)

It is no surprise that Kempis returns again and again to the “gem casket of all the virtues,” as St. Basil described it: humility (1,22).  He never tires to remind us that our fallen nature, “frail and inconstant,” should make us meek in recognizing our own weakness and the greatness of God.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. (Mt 5:5)

The words in the headline come from the lips of Azariah (Abednego) who, we hear proclaimed in today’s first reading, was cast, along with two companions, into a white hot furnace for his refusal to worship a golden idol (Dn 3:25,34-43).  Being spared by God due to their faithfulness, Azariah speaks for the men in the midst of the flames, giving a long testimony to God’s faithfulness to His people, and his trust in God’s mercy.  This miracle leads to King Nebuchadnezzar, the one whose edict they defied, giving them high positions in his kingdom, and a newfound respect for their God, a respect he commanded of all the citizens of his empire.

What an amazing display of humility leading to trust in God!  The three men would not be unfaithful to Yahweh, despite the immediate threat of immolation, whether or not their Lord decided to spare their earthly lives.  Even in the midst of the flames they lay bare their iniquities and the sins of their people.

One significant reason God gave us Scripture is for our instruction (see 2 Tim 3:16-17).  This example from the Old Testament should really make us think about the way we approach adversity regarding challenges to our faith.  Fortitude in the face of persecution, humility regarding our own sinfulness, and trust in the power of God to save us (if not in this life, then the next) lead to glorification of God through our steadfastness.  “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” whether it is red or white.

The Burning Fiery Furnace (1832) by George Jones

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