As I prepared at prayer in my chapel to issue reluctantly the directive suspending public services in our parishes due to an unprecedented pandemic, the first reading (Daniel 3:25, 34-43) of the Mass for that day, Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent, touched me deeply. God has a way of surprising us in times of tribulation, penetrating our minds and hearts, capturing our attention and bringing us down to earth. Such was the case here.
Three young Jewish men are thrown into a fiery furnace for not following the king's order to worship a golden idol. One of these victims, Azariah, prays: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received" (Daniel 3:38-39).
If there is nothing else to offer, then take us, the prayer seems to say. The young men are making themselves the sacrificial offering. Take our contrite hearts and humble spirits. Let these be our offering to God.
This time of trial and sorrow must be for us a call to repentance. We must acknowledge our sins, repent, and offer God a "contrite heart and humble spirit." In this way we witness to each other and the world our faith, hope and love. "Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord" (Daniel 3:43).