20 November 2017
1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64
There grew a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us reach an understanding with the pagans surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.’ This proposal proved acceptable, and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the pagan observances. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the pagans have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to the heathen rule as willing slaves of impiety.
Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath. The king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king’s decree sentenced him to death.
Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed. It was a dreadful wrath that visited Israel.
As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.
“They chose death rather than contamination”
I grew up being afraid.
As a young baby, my grandaunt accepted me into her home and brought me up as her own. She loved me, and I loved her. But children model what they see, and I modelled fear.
My grandaunt was someone who felt afraid all the time. She believed that her life was tough (and it was) and that came across as a fear of her circumstances. Whenever something bad happened, she accepted it, but quietly grumbled. Without realising it, I took this fear into myself, even into my early adulthood. All too often, like my grandaunt, I choose to avoid speaking up, even in circumstances where I felt a wrong had been committed.
One day, I was reflecting on my life and what I could do better when I became aware of the ‘fear’. I soon found myself looking at the mirror; here I was, a grown man, capable of defending myself, and yet afraid. The realisation hit that I was loved and saved by my God, and for that reason, I had nothing to be afraid of. While this is an ongoing process, that was the precise point when most of my fear left me.
In today’s first reading, we are shown how the Israelites are willing to give up their lives in order to stand up for their faith. They refuse, in the face of death, to stop practising the Law and to consume unclean foods. My faith has not been tested to that extent, and yet they have far shown me how I should also stand up for what the Bible and the Catholic Church has taught me.
Standing up for our faith does not apply only to standing up against oppression. Like the blind man in the gospel, we should also not allow how others see us to stop us from continuing to reach out to our God. Despite people telling him to stop, the man continued (and even took it a notch louder!) to reach out to our Lord.
Let us take the Israelites and the blind man as our role models; to learn to stand up for our faith.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Father God, help us to stand up for our faith and to never allow fear to stop us from doing what is right.
Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending us the Bible, the Catholic Church and the community to guide us in our daily lives.