If Daniel isn’t one of our favorite prophets, he should be. In fourteen action-packed chapters, you have unforgettable narratives: three young men dancing in a blast furnace, the handwriting on the wall, fierce animals (lions and a dragon), the sweep of Hellenistic history, and the incomparable Susanna defended from the death penalty in an inspired courtroom scene.
Daniel doesn’t appear often in the Lectionary. Short shrift for one of the “major” prophets. We get him twice this year (cycle B) on the last two weeks of ordinary time. As you settle into your pews on November 17th/18th this year, you’ll hear this conclusion of a longish apocalyptic narrative (Daniel 10 through 12):
I, Daniel, mourned and I heard this word of the Lord:
“At that time there shall arise
Michael, the great prince,
guardian of your people;
It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress
since nations began until that time.
At that time your people shall escape,
everyone who is found written in the book.
Many of those who sleep
in the dust of the earth shall awake;
some shall live forever,
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
But the wise shall shine brightly
like the splendor of the firmament,
And those who lead the many to justice
shall be like the stars forever.
Believers will suffer persecution. They will also experience some of their numbers abandoning the faith. For the first readers of Daniel, this meant the Jewish people. Christians would certainly interpret God’s agency in human history as something applicable to them. So these verses from the prophet apply to them as well.
When would this passage be an appropriate choice? Certainly for a believer who has gone through a period of tribulation. It is a hopeful message for a loyal Christian. I would think the punishment overtones would be a bit much for someone whose faithfulness is in some doubt. “Horror and disgrace” are not matters one wants to think about when deep in grief. And while we know the stars themselves are not eternal, we get the message: those who have remained faithful to God will not go wanting after they awake from the dust of the earth.
Your thoughts about this reading? I don’t think it’s chosen much.