You will know the truth,
and the truth will make
The fire had not had any
power over the bodies
of those men… not
even the smell of
fire came from
The smell of fire. I have some fond associations with various smells related to fire — oak logs burning in the fireplace, barbecue grills in the summer, even the butane of my grandfather’s cigarette lighter (everyone smoked back then). But more often, the smell of fire and smoke signals danger, destruction and even catastrophe.
Hell is constantly portrayed in terms of fiery torture, and the furnace into which Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is perhaps the ultimate trial by fire. However, their faith protects them and they emerge unscathed — the fire had no power over them.
It’s a small leap to see their story in a metaphorical light: faith in their God protecting them from the fires of sin and corruption. It’s also not a huge leap from there to some of the fires burning around us today: racism, sexism, homophobia — hatred of all kinds. And, of course, the most combustible fuels to fires like these are lies, ignorance and fear.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says that the truth will make us free. And while truth alone will not extinguish the fires of bigotry, if we are to fight them at all, we need more of it.