Dn1:1-6,8-20; Dn3:52-56; Lk21:1-4
In today’s liturgy the book of Daniel is used to respond to the first reading from the book of Daniel. The newly arrived exiles, Daniel and his friends, have just taken up residence in the king’s palace in Babylon. They are full of glory and praise. They cannot stop blessing the LORD. He is the God of their fathers. His name is blessed, holy, glorious, forever exalted above all for all ages. He is blessed in the temple of his holy glory. He is blessed on the throne of the cherubim. He is blessed in the firmament of the heavens. He is praiseworthy; he is glorious forever! These young exiles give glory to God in the midst of their exile. All those painful memories of temple and kingdom have given birth to glorious praise. Their exile in Babylon has not crushed their faith and hope. They love the LORD and one another as they wait for redemption and restoration in Israel and in their temple. The visionary Daniel tells us the story of his first few months living in the land of Shinar after the Lord handed over the people of Judah to King Nabuchadnezzar. Poor exiles become advisors to their captor-king. The Gospel of Saint Luke recalls the vision of generosity in the gift of a poor widow. The King of the universe notices the heavenly wisdom of giving more than from one’s surplus. Indeed, the Lord Jesus sees in the poor widow’s action a glimpse of his own divine generosity—giving all that he had, every drop of blood and water so that we might be stronger than all the other exiles and find our way home to heaven.
All of us are metaphorical exiles; we are not at home here. All of us long to be in our eternal home with the King of kings and Lord of lords. However, our ancestors in the faith, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were actually political exiles. From the first days in their country of captivity these young men were chosen from among the other Jewish exiles because they were of royal blood. These were from among the nobility of Israel. They were young men without any defect, handsome, intelligent, wise, quick to learn, and prudent in judgment. Such as these could take their place in the king’s palace, and they were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. After three years’ training they were destined to enter the king’s service; their exile would be less physically painful, but no less spiritually torturous. These four Israelites asked for special treatment from their caregiver. They did not want to eat from the table of the king. Even though they had to be nourished by the wisdom and literature of their captors they did not want to be nourished from the table of their captors. Even at this young age these exiles were wise enough to know that the one who feeds you owns you. Though the chief chamberlain was hesitant to deviate from the planned menu for the exiles, he gave into Daniel’s request. Their true Lord and King provided them with strength, dignity, and wisdom that startled the king and all his servants. After their training period was over the king spoke with his young captives, and none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the king’s service, and lived painfully close to the power that made them exiles. In any question of wisdom or prudence that the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the pagan magicians and enchanters. It was their faith in the LORD and their faithfulness to his commands that made exile a blessing for these four young men.
Poor exiles in service of the king were noticed little until the king spoke with them and discovered the wealth of their wisdom. The Lord Jesus was among the crowd in front of the temple in Jerusalem where offerings were presented for the glory of God and the upkeep of his house. From other preaching of the Lord Jesus we know that often the wealthy members of the temple community would make a grand show of their act of giving. The crowds who admired their larger than life offerings would richly reward them. The Lord Jesus, however, pointed out the ostentation and showiness by pointing out someone small and insignificant. The Lord Jesus saw the beauty and greatness in the poor widow’s tiny offering. While the large donors, who gave only out of their surplus wealth what they could easily afford, distracted everyone, the Lord Jesus saw in the widow’s mite a glimpse of true generosity. Perhaps the Lord Jesus also saw a vision of his future self-gift upon the cross. There at the in front of the new temple of God the crowd would witness his self-sacrifice, his total out-pouring of blood and water. From his place of exile the Lord Jesus gave perfect praise in forgiving even those who condemned him to the exile of the cross.