From Farthest Down, Seeing Farthest Up

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake” (Dan. 12:2).

The golden era of the Israelites was the time of King Solomon, roughly a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. But throughout the next four centuries, the people of God would rebel against their God and his commandments. Though warned repeatedly by the prophets, they refused to change. They continued to decline until their land was ravaged by enemies, their temp le looted and burned, and their nobility and best-educated taken into captivity in Babylon.

Among the exiles was a young man named Daniel, from whose book of visions comes one of our lessons for today. His name, fittingly, means “God is my judge.” In Babylon, he was given a new name: Belteshazzar (a Babylonian god). The giving of a new name shows the Babylonians’ intent to eradicate the Jewish culture. But beyond all hope, expectation, and precedent, for many of the faithful in exile, it was a time of consolidation — that is, their identity began to be forged anew.

Now that the prophets had been vindicated, the faithful recognized what treasures their words had been, particularly since the prophecies that had condemned the people had also included the hope of return, which no prophet had failed to mention in some form or other. For those who still believed, from lax, ignorant, and immoral persons they become conservative and traditional.

Daniel was a visionary and mystic. Into his visions and dreams came a remarkable revelation: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Though there are hints of the resurrection of the dead elsewhere in the Old Testament, this passage is perhaps the only unambiguous one. One can make a case that Daniel is the first human being in history to whom this revelation is given. The circumstances are astonishing! A member of a vanquished and punished nation without name or land or temple is given a vision of Easter hope. The deepest joy for the whole earth, which God was keeping in store until the time of its full revelation on the day Jesus was raised, was revealed to someone in the worst situation imaginable.

As Daniel approached his 90th birthday, a second exodus took place. His people picked up and went home to Judah and rebuilt their homes and their Temple. A little more than 500 years later, the Messiah would be born, whose resurrection would open the way of eternal life to all believers.

Look It Up

In today ‘s Gospel, Jesus taught that the Temple would be destroyed. See Mark 13:2. In context, was this a good thing or a bad thing?

Think About It

Have you ever been delivered from a situation that seemed utterly hopeless? If so, did you see God’s hand in it?

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