MEMORIAL OF SAINT ANDREW DŬNG-LĄC, PRIEST, AND COMPANIONS, MARTYRS
Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28
King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.
Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.
Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, “So you are Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard of you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that enlightenment, understanding, and excellent wisdom are found in you.
But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you are able to read the writing and tell me its interpretation, you shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around your neck, and rank third in the kingdom.”
Then Daniel answered in the presence of the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else! Nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and let him know the interpretation.
You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven! The vessels of his temple have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.
“So from his presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; tekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Bless the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. Bless the Lord, stars of heaven; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
“Bless the Lord, all rain and dew; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. Bless the Lord, all you winds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. Bless the Lord, fire and heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
We are in the final week of the liturgical year this week, having celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King this past Sunday and looking forward to the coming of Christ during Advent. During this time, the scriptures invite us to consider the meaning of God’s kingship, especially as it will be revealed in Christ and as it relates to us in our lives. We proclaim God to be King, and not just any king; He is the Almighty, All-powerful God, King of kings and Lord of lords. But what has that looked like in history and what does it mean to us?
We begin our reading from the book of Daniel with a depiction of a powerful king, but his power is earthly and certainly not divine. Belshazzar rules over a mighty kingdom and many conquered peoples; he has riches, and the finest foods upon which to dine and wines to drink, and can invite a thousand lords over for a sumptuous dinner party. He has the best of everything and answers to nobody; even the “gods” he praises have no power over him, but are made by human hands out of materials that humans can manipulate to be whatever they want. Until suddenly he finds himself answering to a vision he cannot understand and writing he cannot even read. In his time of crisis, he turns to an unlikely person; a captive subject, but one in whom there is understanding. Although he seems to understand that Daniel’s wisdom is not something of this earth, he nonetheless appeals to Daniel by offering him the sort of human treasures that he himself trusts in. He does not understand that neither Daniel nor his God have any interest in these things, as they amount to nothing compared to the gifts of God and will soon be brought to nothing by human standards as well.
Daniel gives the interpretation, and suddenly the scales of power dramatically flip. The God of the captive, who cannot even lay claim to a temple and whose temple vessels have been pillaged, is in full control. He is the one who truly gives and takes away, who measures not His nobles and wealth, but numbers the breaths of kings and the days of empires. He is the one whose people may be humbled by being conquered, but who Himself is unconquerable. He is hidden and humble and speaks in mysteries, but His treasure is the entire world and He sees and knows all.
He is also the one who upholds His servants. He does not reward with positions or possessions like the kings of earth, but by bestowing life, a future, a reputation, and the ear of the mighty. Daniel was brought in before the mighty king Belshazzar to speak the truth to him. His comrades, Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego were brought also before the king when they would not worship his gods. The canticle they sang, which is our responsorial today, proclaims God’s power over all created things. Even heat and fire obeyed God’s will, by sparing His servants who were cast into them for His sake. In our gospel, Jesus also promises that His followers will be brought before the mighty to speak the truth, to proclaim God’s sovereignty and the gospel of salvation. This is the humility and power of our God, that He answers not to the mighty by human standards, but exalts whom He will so that the mighty should answer to Him. This is the power and humility of our God; that He claims for His own those who are persecuted and put to death, to vindicate them, for He alone is unconquerable.
In my life, do I put my trust in material things and seek to have control over my own life, or do I put all at God’s service? Do I speak about Jesus and proclaim Him as Lord to others? Do I pray for opportunities to speak to others about Jesus? When I am in distress and facing persecution or condemnation, do I trust in Jesus to bring good out of it, both for myself and for those who are making my life difficult?
Today, let’s reflect on what it means to make Jesus the Lord of our lives, especially in circumstances beyond our control, situations that frighten us, and in those opportunities where He may be calling us to share the gospel with others. Let’s ask Him to be more and more Lord of our lives and, whether it brings us advantages or imposes a cost, to count it joy to build His kingdom.