2 Maccabees 7:1,20-31
There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. But the mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord. Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them, ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.’
Antiochus thought he was being ridiculed, suspecting insult in the tone of her voice; and as the youngest was still alive he appealed to him not with mere words but with promises on oath to make him both rich and happy if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors; he would make him his Friend and entrust him with public office. The young man took no notice at all, and so the king then appealed to the mother, urging her to advise the youth to save his life. After a great deal of urging on his part she agreed to try persuasion on her son. Bending over him, she fooled the cruel tyrant with these words, uttered in the language of their ancestors, ‘My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in my womb and suckled you three years, fed you and reared you to the age you are now (and cherished you). I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way. Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.’
She had scarcely ended when the young man said, ‘What are you all waiting for? I will not comply with the king’s ordinance; I obey the ordinance of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses. As for you, sir, who have contrived every kind of evil against the Hebrews, you will certainly not escape the hands of God.’
While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”
‘Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities.” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds…”. “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
‘“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’
When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
“I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you”
I got my driver’s license a month ago. By some miracle of God, I went from zero to being able to take a car out to run errands on my own, in the space of a month. There’s some historical context here. I was in a car crash as a teenager. The experience of it was so traumatic the emotional scars continue to plague me twenty years on. Each time I get behind the wheel, the memory plays itself out like a re-run. I remember the spinning, the sound on impact, the incredulity at being unharmed, the feeling of being given a second chance. So each time I get behind the wheel, I pray. I pray when I change lanes, when I park, when I’m at four-way intersections waiting for my turn, when I arrive safely. I pray constantly when I’m behind the wheel. It has been a month but the feeling is still surreal. Who would’ve thought that a fear like this could be confronted and made into something worthwhile? For more than twenty years, this fear has held me back, kept me from doing things, so I lived only half the life I was capable of. The day I got my driver’s license, I felt like the men whose sight God restored – “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Lord!”. Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be”. And their eyes were opened.” (Matthew 9:27-30). This healing is a gift. I have not earned it. It is a gift. The fear is still there lurking, but I cannot give in to it. I have to embrace this healing because God intends for me to take this gift and use it.
Today’s gospel reading is Luke’s version of the Parable of the Talents (Gifts) that we are so familiar with from Matthew 25. The difference is in its context. Luke’s version comes after the conversion of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). God gives Zacchaeus the gift of faith. Zacchaeus experiences a conversion. He turns from his ways. It’s a gift; he has not earned it, but he puts it to use right away. Who amongst us remembers the day of our conversion? The day God opened our eyes and we believed? For me, the initial euphoria gave way to a crippling fear. Like the useless servant with the one gold coin, I was fearful and hid my faith away. I feared disapproval from my family, confrontation with my father, persecution from my friends. I was afraid and kept it stored away, and as a result, during those intervening years, my faith withered. “To everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19: 26)
Fear is like a sickness. It imprisons the mind, it holds us back. It will cripple us if we let it. Do not give in to it. God will heal those who reach out to Him. Do not be afraid. “If you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your stronghold, no harm will come upon you, no disaster will draw near your home. For He will command his angels to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91: 9-11)
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for God’s healing, that He take from us the fear in our hearts that stops us from experiencing the fullness of life.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit and the angels that God sends to protect our comings and our goings.