Scripture: 1st Reading: Daniel5,1-6,13-17,23-28; Resp. Psalm: Daniel3,40-45; Gosp. Accl.: Rev2,10; Gospel: Lk21,12-19
God is supreme, awesome, almighty and all powerful. He is holiness in perfection and perfection in holiness. He is supreme, but at the same time accessible and close. He makes Himself available for encounter with us. Because of His awesome holiness, mortal man is drawn to worship Him. Even though there is nothing that can sufficiently be used for the worship of His infinite majesty, He permits that we use some of His creation, the works of His hands, to help us experience communion with Him. He does not need these material elements but permits them to be used for our own good.
Once something has been so set apart for His worship, that thing becomes His own and cannot be utilized in any way to suggest that it is still ordinary. This is because it has been employed in the worship of the Living God, has had contact with His awesome holiness and should therefore be regarded as holy objects solely for worship. King Belshazzar did not understand this. In the height of power, some men become mad and lose every iota of wisdom and ability to think straight. Pride sets in and fall becomes a matter of time.
Nebuchadnezzar the father of this foolish King Belshazzar was the one who over-ran Judah, deported Jechonaiah and the people, sacked the temple and brought the temple treasury, the gold, silver and the sacred vessels in the sanctuary to Babylon. Belshazzar decided to outwit his father in infamy. In one of his pagan revelries, he commanded in a great feast before everyone that the gold and silver vessels his father took from Jerusalem be brought and he and all his guests and concubines drank wine from them.
The value of the vessels is not what is important here. What is at stake is the insult to the Living God. At stake here is the desecration of an object that had been set apart solely for the worship of God. His father committed sacrilege by removing those vessels. He now committed abomination by desecrating them, thus defying and daring the Living God.
The divine response was immediate. A hand wrote on the wall of his palace. Daniel was called to interpret the meaning. The interpretation was simple: the kingdom lifted himself up against Yahweh by drinking from the sacred vessels and praising the gods of silver and gold. The hand was sent from His presence. The verdict was clear: "mine, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tell, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
Belshazzar lifted up himself against God and paid dearly for it. He profaned the Holy objects and lost his kingdom. Our Lord today foresaw the tribulations of His followers. He knew that discipleship would attract great persecutions. For our Lord, that is not the time for the disciple to be afraid. That is the time to bear testimony. What will be said should not be prepared or rehearsed because what will be said will be given by our Lord Himself. The hatred and handing over of the believer will even come from his family. But our Lord assured the faithful witness: "not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."
The word today teaches us again about steadfastness to God. It teaches us that we cannot compromise where God's demands on us are at stake. It teaches us to have courage like Daniel, to bear testimony to the truth, even when doing this before a mad ruler may endanger our lives. It assures us that such testimony will not go unrewarded. In such instances, by our endurance we will gain our lives.
Let us pray: O God our Father, your word today calls us to a living testimony to the truth. Give us courage to bear witness to you before men. Make our lives living examples of true and authentic discipleship. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.