1. Daniel 3:50: "Frost and snow, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever.
This Scripture, known as the Canticle of Daniel, is the hymn of praise sung by the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego, while they are in the fiery furnace. In the midst of the flames which should surely consume them in the most painful and brutal way, these men boldly proclaim the glory of God, and command that all of God's creations bow down in praise of Him.
The result of their praises is that they are saved from the flames and King Nebuchadnezzar who had condemned them to the furnace in the first place, acknowledges the power of God saying "there is no other God who is able to deliver in this way."
What can we learn from this Scripture? There are moments in our lives when we too find ourselves in a "fiery furnace" - one of illness, financial hardships, persecutions or misunderstandings. It is in those times that we can and should make these words of praise our own. Our praises of the Lord have the power to change our circumstances and exert a profound influence on those who witness it.
Just over a year ago, Social Media gave me and many others the opportunity to witness the power of the praise and Love of God in the lives of Paul and Ann Coakley. During Paul's rapid and untimely death of testicular cancer, his pregnant wife, Ann and their community of faith-filled brothers and sisters from Franciscan University of Steubenville, came together to grieve Paul's death with a sacrifice of praise. Through it all, their praise of the Lord stood as a witness to God's love, mercy and goodness in spite of the most painful of "fiery furnaces". Over a year later, this witness of praise for the Lord continues to change the hearts of all who hear their story.
2. Isaiah 1:18: "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet they shall be whiter than snow." I LOVE this scripture. It begins with one of the most beautiful, inviting words of the Lord "Come". At the Lord's beckoning, we can move towards him seeking mercy for our sins. It ends with God's promise - through his love and mercy our sins can be transformed from the bold, dark scarlet, into the clean, pure white of snow.
There is nothing quite as glistening as an untouched field of freshly fallen snow. As a child I remember staring at the snow through the window, restlessly waiting for the "green light" from my parents to head out and dive into the whiteness, the pristine smoothness of the untouched snow. It never looked the same after we had had our fill of playing in it, and once it was marred by snow angels and snow men, I longed for a return to its original perfection.
In a similar manner, after a time away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my soul seems to resemble the dark, slushy, mess that snow quickly devolves into (especially if you grew up in the city). There are still glimpses of its whiteness and purity, but they are largely hidden beneath the soot, footprints and junk piled on top of it. This scripture from Isaiah, the Lord promises that he can transform my soul which have been marred by sin, back into the purity and "whiteness" of the untouched snow. I stand on that promise, especially during those confessions that are most filled with embarrassment, shame and guilt.
What can we learn from this scripture? No matter how "scarlet" our sin is, how filled with shame we are about it, the Lord meets our sins with his invitation of mercy. You can almost see him patting the seat next to him, smiling warmly and coaxing us gently, "Come, sit next to me, let's talk about this..." This same experience happens at every Confession. We enter the confessional to meet with the Lord who is waiting to transform our sins into something beautiful; to restore our souls into something pure. Don't be afraid to say "yes" to that invitation, especially during this Jubliee Year of Mercy!