Can you enforce uniformity in pluralistic diversity? Thursday, 33rd week in ordinary time – 1 Maccabees 2:15-29
In order to deal with threats to his vast empire from within, Antiochus IV decided to ‘unite’ his subjects under a uniform civil code and culture called Hellenism. It was his hope that the imposition of Greek culture and language would eventually ‘unify’ his kingdom thus making it easier to administer and govern. King Antiochus like many cruel tyrants of today, did so first by inducement and then finally by brute force.
A uniform civil code in a pluralistic, multi ethnic, religious and linguistic society is bound to fail if that code is made by a single man with a single agenda (or even worse by a parliament where many have criminal records themselves). An attempt, if any, to write such a civil code should rest with the best minds of the nation, representing religion, culture, language, gender etc., or else it will be a pseudo- democratic process with autocratic intentions of staying in power forever ( welcome to the world of the likes of Vladimir Putin)
While many of the Jews in the Maccabean period succumbed to the vile threats of this cruel tyrant, King Antiochus, the scriptures of today tell us of the bravery of the family of Mattathias. In all probability Mattathias had moved from Jerusalem to the city of Modein to avoid the sacrifice that was mandated by King Antiochus. This monthly sacrifice coincided with the celebration of the king’s birthday.
Having left Jerusalem to avoid such an abomination, it was not likely that Mattathias would bow to the king’s wishes in what might have been his home town. The scriptures tell us that Mattathias was offered inducements to be part of the ‘king’s friends’. This was the lowest of the four ranks in the order of ‘friends of the king’ (friends, honoured friends, first friends, preferred friends).
Mattathias who could not be bought with gold or silver was neither going to be purchased over by honorific human titles and positions. When St John Marie Vianney was honoured by the government with titles, he too rejected them calling them ‘toys that would deprive him a place in heaven’.
In a day and time when so many seem to abandon the faith over ‘apparent issues’ with the faith (read more as personal inconveniences) there are still those that hold steadfast. The calling to be a Christian is not limited to good times but in bad too. In India this calling to stand up for the truth in a face of unjust and biased actions of a government is no longer an option. While we in the cities do not experience such direct attacks, Christians in rural parts of India face discrimination on a daily basis.
Yesterday, in an official communiqué signed by Archbishop Thomas Macwan, Archbishop of Gandhinagar in Gujarat, he states that “the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake and urged Christians across India to pray for the victory of the humane leaders who remain faithful to the Indian Constitution.
He termed the Gujarat election as significant for the future course of our country. “The results of this election are significant and it will have its repercussion and reverberation throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the course of our country. We are aware that the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human Rights are being violated. The constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, faithful or institutions. There is a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, OBCs, BCs, poor and so on. Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country. The election results of Gujarat State Assembly can make a difference.”
Perhaps we who sit in ivory towers need to wake up and like Mattathias stand up for the protection of our faith as enshrined in our constitution.
Fr Warner D’Souza