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Vol. XIII, Aug. 2007

 

“My God Sent His Angel and Shut the Lions’ Mouths”
(Dan 6:22)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

We find our next text on the angels in the book of Daniel in chapter six. Daniel received privileged treatment from the kings on account of his wisdom in revealing the meaning of special messages to the kings. “Belshazzar commanded, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put about his neck, and proclamation was made concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom” (Dan 5:29). Darius the Mede, who succeeded Belshazzar, retained Daniel in a position of honor.  

1. The faithful – threatened by evil and trusting in God  

a) Darius - a righteous man

Darius appears as a sincere man. He delegated his power and “set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom” (Dan 6:1). He kept Daniel in his position as the third in the kingdom. He made him one of three presidents, “to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss” (Dan 6:2). He even respected his God. He “said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!’” (Dan 6:16). The king even “planned to set him over the whole kingdom” (Dan 6:3).

b) The hatred of the enemy and human envy

The righteousness of the king and, more so, the piety of Daniel “nerved” the enemy. Given the king’s plan regarding Daniel, it became easy to provoke envy in “all the other presidents and satraps”. Typical for the enemy, they approached the king with   fawning adulation; they praised him more than anyone else:

O King Darius, live for ever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked. (Dan 6:6-8)  

Will the king see through the tactic and the hidden plan of his officers? Will he mistrust those in whom he had trusted so much before? Or will he later on be like Pilate? Scripture shows how they tricked the king: “King Darius signed the document and interdict” (Dan 6:9), namely, one which forbade the veneration of any other god than himself. And Daniel, although he heard about the king’s decision, continued in the practice of his faith. His enemies, of course, observed him, and turned to the king with their accusation:

“O king! Did you not sign an interdict …?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no heed to you, O king, or the interdict you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” (vv. 11-13)

c) The heart of the king

The king “was much distressed, and set his mind to deliver Daniel; and he labored till the sun went down to rescue him” (v.14). Due to the malicious insistence of Daniel’s enemies, Darius was obliged to carry out his first, so imprudent interdict. Personally, he still hoped for Daniel to be saved. He gave the order to cast Daniel into the lions’ den, but said to Daniel: “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And he himself “went to his palace, and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him” (v.16-18). And God proved once more to be the true and only God. He sent His angel to secure the lions and to save Daniel from death. “At the break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions… (and) cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Dan 6:16-20). And Daniel confirmed: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me…’” (v. 22). And the king, exceedingly glad, commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den…. “and those men who had accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions — they, their children, and their wives; and before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces” (v. 24).

In this confrontation, the king agreed to the cunning request of his magistrates, but also trusted in Daniel’s God. We find this situation today more and more often: Many people are confronted with the seductive world, and in many ways mingle in it, but, more or less secretly, they set their hope in the victory of the good and godly people, and desire or pray for the true and open manifestation of the glory of God! As the silent king seems to be the minority against the loud “presidents and prefects and satraps…” (v. 7), so today the silent multitude of good people appears like one against an apparent multitude who shout out loudly, as if they were the majority.

2. The Priest – united with God and blocking the evil one

Daniel stands here as a man of God just as we priests should.

a) Daniel, a model for priests

Along with Daniel we are expected to manifest the presence of God in this world of spiritual combat among the simple and struggling people. Daniel was a friend of God. He was faithful to his convictions and to his faith, and confessed them without fear. St. Gabriel called him correctly “greatly beloved” (Dan 9:23). “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed,” he remained faithful to God Who had already helped him so many times. He continued to go “down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (v. 10). Neither did he deny his devotion when he was accused. Courageously, Daniel accepted to be “cast into the den of lions,” somehow entering the arena like Elija when he confronted the 450 prophets of Baal with deep confidence in the living and attentive God.

b) The hopes placed in priests

The king expected this faithfulness from Daniel, and still more : God’s manifestation in favor of Daniel! Like King Darius, we find today many people who seek the truth and need such testimonies and examples for orientation and edification, for encouragement and the strengthening of their wills. Many seek support in others. Many occasions call for a firm stand: the many difficulties in our daily life, things reported in the news, the non-existent ethics of the entertainment-industry, etc.. Even our confreres are grateful when someone stands up and brakes the silence of the silent majority. Many are grateful, who in their own hearts are not as strong as they would like to be, and who by their reticence seem to be part of the lazy majority, just as the king appeared to take the side of his officers.

Many seek the truth and want to believe in the promises of the Lord. The Word of the Lord should be enough reason for our confidence and fidelity.

3. The Angel – obedient fighter of God for His Kingdom

God so loves those among His children who put their trust in Him, just as parents feel confirmed and honored when their children expect help from them.

a) God’s fidelity

Faithfulness is an ever rarer virtue among men. Consequently, people have difficulty in comprehending and trusting in God’s fidelity. However, our faith stands on solid ground: “Let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’… It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man… O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!” (Ps 117:4,8,29). “The divine name, ‘I Am’ or ‘He Is’, expresses God’s faithfulness: despite man’s faithlessness through sin and the punishment it deserves, God keeps ‘steadfast love for thousands’ (Ex 34:7)” (CCC 211). Therefore “Every one then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock … And every one who … does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand” (Mt 7:24,26; cf. Ps 127:1). This fidelity of God goes so far that He shares with man all He has, even His own Son (cf. Jn 3:16; cf. 15:15; 16:14). St. Paul reflected about this and added: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?” (Rom 8:32) This includes also “the angels, who surround God” (CCC 326).

b) The gift of the angels

In this context we can understand the promise of Jesus: “And I tell you, every one who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Lk 12:8-9). This is what Daniel experienced beforehand during the exile: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.”

The material world is, of course, totally under God’s power. Jesus proves this extensively in His life on earth: He speaks with divine power to wind (cf. Mt 8:26; 14:25) and water (cf. Jn 2:7-9), to trees (cf. Mt 21:19) and animals (cf. Jn 21:6). The human body, living (cf. Mt 8:15-16) or dead (cf. Jn 11:43) falls under his authority. By their natural power, the pure spirits can also act upon and through the material things in this world. The devil spoke through the serpent in paradise (cf. Gen 3:1ff) and the good angel acted over the donkey of the Prophet Balaam (cf. Num 22:27ff). God entrusted to the angels the administration of the entire material world. However, it remains that all their power is under the sovereignty of God. This explains, why the angel of God could “shut the lion’s mouths”, whereas the fallen angels could not hinder the terrible end of the enemies of Daniel. Here lies the basis for our confidence in the good angels and the reason, why the Church invoked the angels in almost all the former prayers of blessing and still in some today.

We priests and the faithful ought to pray to the holy angels in all circumstances, especially when we are asked to confess our faith with fidelity. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Ps 34:6-7).

 4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Daniel’s example and King Darius’ hidden hope assure us: We should be completely convinced about the Lord’s fidelity towards us. This conviction grows and is further cultivated in and through humble and confident prayer. Only God knows how many prayers and sacrifices are offered up in hiding, unseen to the eyes of the world, but visible and present before God like that of King Darius. Let us follow Daniel’s example and remain firm and faithful to the Lord, carrying out our duties in His name. Let us not be impressed by the passing offers of the world, but rather, sensitive to the silent cry of many hearts. Let us contribute our part, and surrender the rest to God and His angels. He is greater than we can tell.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC