Today, this Old Testament reading from Daniel about the three young men in the fiery furnace, seems to strike a chord with me. Here we are, halfway through Lent and still feeling as if we haven’t gotten the message. And the “message” is forgiveness. Not just forgiveness for those who might have done us wrong but also, forgiveness for ourselves in that we have not allowed the love of God to fan the flames of the fire and bring us to that cooling point. All of us get stuck in a furnace of our own shortcomings. We are more willing to say, “woe is me” than to say, “Lord, show me what I need to do to get out of this place of slavery and bask in your loving presence. Yet we often slap God in the face – almost saying, “I could never be forgiven for … whatever.
There is a two-sided key to this problem: in the story of the three young men in the furnace their answer seems to be “praise,” Here they are in a furnace seven times hotter than normal and they are able to sing God’s praises to the extent that a cooling breeze keeps them safe. In the Gospel it seems to be the granting of forgiveness – unconditionally – that allows the flames of hatred and sin to be squelched. “Forgive us as we have forgiven … not just once but seventy times seven. And that forgiveness needs to go in both directions. As we forgive others we also need to allow forgiveness to be given to ourselves. Yet so many of us hold on to our faults thinking that God could never forgive us. Yet, if we don’t allow that forgiveness to come to us, we will never be able to forgive others. We need to explore this matter at greater depth. Perhaps during the remaining days of Lent we will finally get to that point where we can say, “now I understand the forgiveness that God is talking about. Amen!