_A Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal, and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar.’” (1 Maccabees 2:23-24)
In today’s first reading, officers from the evil king Antiochus Ephiphanes arrived at Modein to enforce apostasy against the Jewish religion. Mattathias initially tried to be diplomatic (he spoke to them calmly), but a Jew came forward to offer the sacrifice. Matthias ran and killed the Jew instantly as well as the king’s officers and tore down the pagan altar.
Today’s first reading introduces the concept of “righteous anger.” Mattathias burned with “zeal”, the same word in John 2:17 concerning Jesus. “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple, he found those selling oxen, sheep, pigeons, and money changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the money changers coins and overturned their tables.” (John 2:13-15).
However, the fifth commandment says: “Thou shall not kill.” Today’s reading is not an endorsement of murder. Killing a person in the name of God is a sin. At his arrest, Jesus did not allow his disciples to fight; he even restored the ear of Malchus. The message in today’s first reading is that we must be angry enough with the devil to avoid negotiating with him. In a moment of temptation, know there is no middle ground; you either stand for God or fall for sin.
Secondly, this story teaches the importance of preparation. No one engages in a battle with bare hands. Like Mattathias, who gathered an army in preparation for King Antiochus, we must prepare our spiritual arsenal through daily prayers, meditation and the practice of holiness.
Thirdly, the death of this Jew fulfils what Jesus said: “If you try to save your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for the sake of God, you will keep it for eternity.” He thought that by offering the sacrifice, he would protect himself from King Antiochus’ men, but he lost his life eventually. Agreeing to the devil’s terms will not spare your life.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This cry of Jesus would materialise in AD 70 when the city would be brought down, and no stone in the Temple would be left standing. As Jesus wept over the temple, we should learn to weep over our sins because they only merit hell. One of the beatitudes is: “Blessed are those who mourn.” Learn to mourn over sin. Mourn over the pervasiveness of immorality in our society. If you do not mourn the spread of evil, you will soon find yourself approving it and even seeing it as normal. Develop righteous anger; do whatever is in your power to stop the spread of sin.
_*Saint of the Day:*_ Saint Felicity of Rome. Her story resembles that man whose seven sons were martyred during the great persecution of King Antiochus Epiphanes. St. Felicity was a rich, noble widow. Mother of seven sons, all of whom were martyred- Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip and Silvanus. Felicity was devoted to charity and caring for the poor. She was arrested and ordered to worship pagan gods; she refused. Her sons were arrested and given the same order; they refused. Felicity was forced to watch as her children were murdered one by one. She never denounced her faith. She was beheaded in 165 in Rome, Italy.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, fill me with zeal for truth, righteousness, and holiness. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Maccabees 2:15-29, Ps. 50:1-2,5-6,14-15, Luke 19:41-44).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu