Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20; Luke 21:1-4)

Dr. Andrew Weil is one of America’s most noted nutritionists. In one of his books he writes of the superiority of a vegetarian diet and the harmful effects of alcohol. Dr. Weil would probably find the first reading today, telling of the four young men who thrive on vegetables and water, significant. He might call it ancient corroboration of the best modern scientific research on diets.

However, the writer of the Book of the Prophet Daniel tells the story of Daniel, Hananhiah, Azariah, and Mishael with a different idea in mind than nutrition. He sees the boys’ thriving not because of their diet but in spite of it. He notes that they refuse the fare from the royal table because eating it would mean defiling the Law of Moses. These are pious lads who resist fine foods in order to carry out God’s commands.

Many Americans are thinking about food this week. Some cannot wait to taste the latest Thanksgiving appetizers. Others worry about standing their ground against the onslaught of calories from Thursday until Super Bowl Sunday. The four Jewish boys show America the most enlightened attitude toward food possible. It provides sustenance so that we might, in turn, give God thanks and praise.