Monday, November 25, 2013

Communication with the enemy

This week, the last week of Ordinary Time, we will read part of the Book of Daniel. During the 500's BC the Babylonians not only completed their conquest of Judea but destroyed the First Temple and sent many Jews into exile. It was only when the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonians, that the period known as the Babylonian Captivity ended and the Jews were allowed to return to Judea, and were even financially assisted in the rebuilding of the temple. This Second Temple would have been the one during the time of Jesus and lasted from 516 BC - 70 AD.

Daniel of whom we read this week was taken to Babylon in one of the early waves of the exile. As a prisoner he learned the language and customs of the Babylonians but never abandoned his religion.

Today's reading tells how Daniel and three others (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) all requested and were granted a diet of vegetables and water (no meats, because they would have certainly been unclean). And while the Babylonians thought this insanity they grew stronger.

As I look at present political climate I think there is much to learn from Daniel. He did not refuse to have any contact with the Babaylonians, his kidnappers. On the other hand he did not abandon any of his core values. He found the middle ground. He cooperated when it did not violate his faith. And as the week goes on we will see how this would position him in the long run to do God's work, much the same way Moses and Joseph were position by God.

In our modern world we too often see it as all or nothing, black or white, now or never. The scriptures are replete with examples where God's plan unfolds over long periods of time, with many moments that appear to be defeats, and those who appear to be enemies are even part of the plan. Rarely in the Bible do we see the kind of instant results that we in the 21st century want.

One of the great remnants from captivity is the language in which large parts of Daniel are written, Aramaic. The language that Jesus would speak on a day to day basis found its roots not in Hebrew, but in the languages of the enemy.