Leading by example- Tuesday, 33rd Week in ordinary time – 2 Maccabees 6:18-31
In 167 BC, King Antiochus IV Epiphanies issued an edict which cancelled the concessions made by his father to the Jews. He prohibited the religious customs of the Jews and imposed Greek religious customs.
The Jews were compelled to violate the law and its ordinances for Antiochus had forbidden the Jewish practices and imposed the sacrifices of unclean animals. He cancelled the observances of the Sabbath and the traditional feast, banned circumcision, compelled the Jews to eat pork and finally decreed that the copies of the Law were to be destroyed and their possession outlawed.
Antiochus built pagan altars, temples and shrines throughout the land and forced the Jew to sacrifice to idols. They had to participate in the feast of Dionysius (Bacchus) and in the monthly sacrifice in honour of the king’s birthday. To crown it all, in December 167, the cult to Olympian Zeus was instituted in the temple of Jerusalem. An altar to Zeus was erected and swine’s flesh was offered on it. This is the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11. Disobedience in any of the above carried a death penalty.
In the text preceding today’s first reading, the author gives us a view on why the Jews were visited with such great calamities. He makes a distinction between the way the Lord treats the nations and the way he treats his chosen people. In the case of the other nations, the Lord does not punish immediately but waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins.
In the case of the Jews, the Lord punishes them immediately, that He may not take vengeance on them afterward when their sins have reached their height. This is a sign of great kindness (vs. 13). The Lord punishes His disciples not to destroy (vs. 12). He disciplines but does not forsake (vs. 16).
In the storm of persecution, the author of Maccabees also gives us examples of great courage. The first of them is Eleazar. Eleazar was a scribe who held a high position. He was advanced in age, (vs. 24) and we are told that he was 90 years and had a noble appearance.
To eat pork was forbidden by the Jewish law, so he refuses to eat it or even pretend to eat it, as suggested by his ‘friends’. He did so because he wished to set a good example to the youth, for he knew that after his death he would have to face the ultimate, inescapable judgement of God.
Often times, many people who are advanced in age tend to feel that they are unable to contribute to society or to the family. Eleazar leads the way. A good example of faith can be just what a lot of young people need. Bad habits are not developed by young people of their own accord, they are often provided by adults whose actions are imitated.
To site an example , the solution to the scandal of ‘outstanding Catholics’ at Mass ( I mean those who make a choice to stand outside Church) would be to come in early and find a seat rather than come late and be ‘forced to stand out’. The tragedy is that this behaviour is then desired and emulated by children and youth who gradually move from the first pew to the end of the Church and soon outside its gates.
We need Elazar’s to be our examples in the faith.
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