But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep. — 2 Peter 2:1-5
There is one phrase in this passage of 1st Peter –“their destruction is not asleep”– that reminds me of Jesus asleep in Peter’s barque during that storm. In our times, we are experiencing the same anxiety. We are all in the same boat as the storm rages and Our Lord seems to be absent, asleep while the destructing forces of evil work overtime to sink the Church.
Peter writes “their destruction is not asleep” and I see a key there, that Christ is equal to their destruction. Everything in this world is subject to futility (Romans 8:20) but we are told to hold on to hope. Our hope is Christ, for whom we were made.
The Church was not made to be conquered by some human ideology like Communism, homosexualism, or by the fleeting feel-good philosophies of this world. The Church is here to stay, the only hard reality in a realm of passing illusions. When England was born, for example, the Church was already more than a thousand years old, and it will be there a thousand years after England is no more. The Roman Empire is dust, the Church of the Galilean buried all those proud emperors and their armies.
But then there’s the matter of faith. We do not know our faith until it is tested by fire. The present age is a test of our faith. God knows exactly how much we trust in him but paradoxically we don’t. We are blind to the depth of our faith. Will I have the faith of the martyrs? Could I endure the trials that saints endured in ages past? Could I stand for my faith like our brothers and sisters in Africa and the Middle East are gallantly standing right now?
Let us go down that rabbit hole — to use the words of Cardinal Cupich — and let our mettle be tested in the fires burning before us. Our Church appears to have fallen under the control of men of little or no faith. The situation is grave now but it is hardly new. Some still remember the burning of entire libraries in seminaries after the II Vatican Council. We still see Sunday after Sunday how the awesome glory of our faith is replaced by bland sophistry. We all know how the vice seen from outside pales in comparison to the corruption seen from inside.
Jesus is not sleeping. He is patiently waiting for these wicked men to fully reveal their true intentions to the world. Grass is mowed when it grows tall. These vain wicked sodomites are going down but they will be allowed to do some damage. That will purify the Church.
That will also show us how firm our own faith is. The only certainty we hold is Christ’s love. He is close to us as we go through the fire. Don’t fret. Just wait and see his awesome victory.
The angel of God with the three Hebrews thrown in the fiery furnace
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
— Daniel 3:1-30