The Heartbeat of Truth

First Reading: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

King Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?
Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,
“There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you
in this matter.
If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”

King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual
and had some of the strongest men in his army
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
and cast them into the white-hot furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles,
“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him;
they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies
rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God.”

Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim;
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Gospel: John 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”


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Some Gospel readings make me wish I were a theologian instead of an English teacher. This is one of them. As I read and re-read this passage, I thought about how Bible scholars would understand the nuances of the conversation far better than I do. Going back to the Gospel of John and reading it in context is helpful, but this passage is still a tough nut to crack.

And yet there is a kernel of simple wisdom at the heart of the complexity.  “The truth will set you free,” says Jesus. It’s a line I’ve heard before, in other contexts. It’s a verse that is easy to remember, perhaps due to its innate rhythm, one in which every other syllable emphasized: the TRUTH will SET you FREE. Just as Shakespeare’s best lines sink into our subconscious due to his regular rhythm, so too does this one.

Truth matters. That is a basic reality, as elemental as the heartbeat. It’s funny, though, that we humans struggle to believe it. Lies are easy to tell, and sometimes they seem like the best way to get ahead.  Sometimes we get so used to public figures lying to us that we almost expect it as a matter of course . . . and that, in itself, is a sign of something seriously amiss.

To lie is to be focused on self, to spend valuable energy on concealment and covering one’s tracks. It’s being constantly vigilant for fear of being exposed. It’s not a life of freedom; it’s one of slavery. But to follow the truth means to be liberated, as Jesus says. It means being free to be an agent of God in whatever ways we can. It’s not that it’s always easy to tell the truth; there often are immediate effects that are painful to face. But the slow lingering burden of concealment and anxiety is, in the long run, the real death sentence.

Put your hand over your heart and feel its rhythm. Say these words to yourself, in time to its beat: The truth will set you free. They are alike, the heartbeat and the truth, for we need both of them to be truly alive.

Think of a time in your life when the truth has freed you.

photo credit

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood and the upcoming book Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos.  You can find out more about her here

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