“Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: ‘All peace to you! I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared: For he is the living God, enduring forever; his Kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and he delivered Daniel from the lions’ power.”
We have a bit of common wisdom in our culture, that you can tell if someone is a good person because animals and children like them. Good people have a peaceful presence about them because they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Animals seem to instinctively sense God’s presence within them. The animals loved Saint Francis too because of his gentleness and peaceful nature. Daniel was a prayerful man and the lions may have sensed his holiness. However, Daniel said that it was God that sent an angel to keep the lions from attacking him.
Something similar happened to the seven men that were thrown into the fiery furnace in an earlier chapter in the book of Daniel. (Daniel 3: 19-25) God sent an angel into the flames of the fiery furnace to protect the seven men and the flames never harmed them. This led to King Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion and he sent a decree out to all of his people, in much the same manner that King Darius did in today’s reading, “that any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
Daniel’s faith in God, like the seven men who were cast into a fiery furnace, never wavered. Even in the worst case scenario, Daniel trusted God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of worse case scenarios, when it will be hard for people to trust in the son of God. He speaks of catastrophic events that will affect the whole world. These things will happen, just as Jesus predicted, because aside from the fact he is the son of God, all of Christ’s predictions have come true so far.
The times leading up to the end of the world will be the most terrible and frightening events the world has ever known. Jesus said “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand.” Jerusalem was surrounded by armies recently during the crisis with Syria. This does not necessarily mean that the end times are upon us, but we also should not be so naive to think that it couldn’t happen in our lifetime either.
The gospel says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” There is no way we can know for sure what exactly will happen, but it sounds like a cosmic event may take place, like a meteor striking the earth. However, it sounds like we will definitely know in advance that it is going to happen.
Whatever worst case scenarios that take place in our lives though, we should not let it shake the foundations of our faith. Like Daniel, and the seven men in the fiery furnace, we should trust God even more. Jesus will return for us. He said, “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
We really are one body in Christ, no matter where we live. Jesus will gather us from one end of the earth to the other and he will wipe away our tears, and we will be one people in an everlasting kingdom, where Christ will reign forever as our king. We should try to keep today’s readings in mind, when things look their worst, God just might have something better in mind for us.