Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031720.cfm
If there’s one thing we’re doing a lot of these days, it’s praying. Our first reading today is one of the most beautiful and sincere prayers in the bible. It is pleading that the people’s contrite heart and humble spirit be accepted by God.
The context of this prayer is a famous scene from the Book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a huge golden statue in Babylon. All the officials were then summoned together for its dedication and called to prostrate themselves and worship the statue. Anyone who refused would immediately be thrown into a mighty furnace.
Azariah and his companions were Hebrew men who ignored this command and said they would not serve the king’s god or worship the statue. This enraged the king and he ordered that they be thrown into a furnace which was to be made seven times hotter. The men were then seen walking in the flames unharmed, however, and praying aloud. The amazed king finally ordered the men to be taken from the fire, their clothes not even singed, and bestowed the highest honors on them as a tribute to their God.
Today’s passage is a part of Azariah’s long prayer of praise and thanksgiving. This section of his prayer is so fitting for us given our current situation:
Let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention St. Patrick, another young man who was fearless in the face of a foreign power. St. Patrick was born in 387 in Britain:
- Captured by Irish pirates from his home when he was 16, and taken as a slave to Ireland,
- Lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family
- Become a cleric and returned to Ireland where he converted this pagan country
- Served there later as bishop, and died around 460
- By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
It seems only fitting to conclude with another beautiful prayer, this one attributed to St. Patrick. It, too, like the earlier prayer, is comforting. As we reflect on St. Patrick’s prayer, and since we’re thinking in terms of ‘social distancing’ these days, I’d invite you to picture Christ’s abiding presence all around us and in-between us.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen