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.

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