The theme of the readings is bearing prophetic witness to truth in action. We “present our bodies” for this
mission at the Presentation of Gifts. Our cry of dedication is, “Thy Kingdom come!”
The story in Daniel 5:1-28 is preceded by two similar examples. First, in chapter three, Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego resist the king’s desire to force “nations and peoples of every language” into cultural (and therefore religious) conformity. Because they disobeyed they were “brought before the king” like bread and wine brought to the altar, and “presented their bodies as a living sacrifice” rather than “serve or worship any god except their own God.” They told the king: “May our God save us!... But even if he will not... we will not serve your god.”
This was in a context of religious and cultural corruption, when the Jews were “brought low everywhere in the world,” having “no priest, prophet, or leader.” Their prayer, “Deliver us... and bring glory to your name,” amounts to our petition, “Thy Kingdom come!”
When they were kept safe in the fiery furnace, it was evident God was with them. Nebuchadnezzar saw four men in the furnace instead of three, “and the fourth looks like a son of God” (1 Romans 12:1. See Daniel 3:4, 13, 18-19, 43, 95).
In Christian witnesses what people see is the risen Jesus alive and active in the members of his body. In the Presentation of Gifts we “present our bodies” as “fruit of the earth and work of human hands,” as bread is, asking for the transformation of our human behavior into something so evidently divine it bears witness to the divine presence of God within us: especially in the “fiery furnace” of today’s temptations and cultural pressures.
In chapter four Daniel interprets another dream for the king that was bad news. But he has the courage to speak the truth: “The Most High has passed sentence upon my lord king.... Therefore, take my advice; atone for your sins by good deeds.” He could have been killed for that, but he wasn’t.
Finally, in chapter five, King Belshazzar sees the “writing on the wall.” Terrified, he calls Daniel to interpret it, because he says, “I have heard that the spirit of God is in you.” Again Daniel is bravely and prophetically honest: “You have not humbled your heart... You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven... God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.” Down with the bad; up with the new: “Thy Kingdom come!”
In Luke 21:12-19 Jesus says to us, “You will be brought to give witness” as prophets, but “Resolve not to worry...” You may be killed, but “not a hair of your head will be harmed.”
We already “presented our bodies as a living sacrifice” at Baptism. Death cannot harm us because we have died and risen with Christ. We have the divine life of God in us. This gives us courage to “present our bodies” again at the Presentation of Gifts in commitment to mission: “Thy Kingdom come!”
Initiative: Be a prophet. Speak the truth in actions only God’s words can explain.