Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

To: All

From: 1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63

Alexander the Great and His Successors (Continuation)

[10] From them (the descendants of Alexander the Great’s officers) came forth
a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king; he hadbeen a
hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year
of the kingdom of the Greeks.

Many Jews are Led Astray

[11] In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying,
“Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we
separated from them many evils have come upon us.” [12] This proposal pleased
them, [13] and some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them
to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. [14] So they built a gymnasium in Je-
rusalem, according to Gentile custom, [15] and removed the marks of circumci-
sion, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold
themselves to do evil.

Observance of the Law is Proscribed

[41] Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
[42] and that each should give up his customs. [43] All the Gentiles accepted
the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion;
they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.

The Temple Profaned, the Books of the Law Set on Fire. Religious Persecution

[54] Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year,
they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also
built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, [55] and burned incense at the
doors of the houses and in the streets. [56] The books of the law which they
found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. [57] Where the book of the co-
venant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the
law, the decree of the king condemned him to death.

[62] But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat
unclean food. [63] They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to pro-
fane the holy covenant; and they did die.


1:1-64 Greek domination was a terrible trial for the Jewish people. During the
Greek period they stayed loyal to the Covenant that God made with the patri-
archs, defending it against the Greek religion and culture which were imposed
on the East as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquests. Pagan customs
were introduced into Jerusalem and Judah, firstly, through the infidelity of many
Jews who were attracted by the novelty and splendor of Hellenistic culture, and,
secondly, because Antiochus Epiphanes tried to weld his territories together
politically by imposing Greek civilization and religion. To do this in Judea he at-
tacked the three pillars of the Jewish religion—the temple of Jerusalem; religious
customs, particularly circumcision and the sabbath observance; and the books
of the Law of Moses. It seemed inevitable that Judaism would disappear or else
be merged with the Greek world, as happened in other Eastern nations influ-
enced by Hellenism.

But, in fact,Israel kept its religious identity thanks to a special providence of God;
this enabled it to continue to be the chosen people from whom would be born the
Messiah, Jesus Christ. That is the message of the books of the Maccabees, a
message perceived by Church tradition when it acknowledged them as being part
of Holy Scripture. When speaking about these books, St Augustine was well
aware that the Jews did not regard them as being on the same level as the Law,
the Prophets and the Psalms, “but they [these books] will not have been received
by the Church in vain if they are read or listened to calmly, and especially those
parts that deal with the Maccabees themselves who, for the sake of God’s Law,
were true martyrs and suffered terrible and humiliating things” (St Augustine
“Contra Gaudentium”, 1, 31, 38).

1:1-10. “The land of Kittim” (in Greek, “khettim”), originally referred to the island
of Cyprus, but it also applied to Greece and Macedonia. Alexander the Great
died in Babylonia in the year 323 BC. His successors, called the Diadochi,
fought among themselves over the division of the empire. Ptolemy I gained con-
trol of Egypt, and founded the dynasty of the Lagids. Seleucus, the first of the
Seleucid kings, took Babylon. To begin with, Palestine was part of the Ptolemy
domains, but in the year 197 BC, after the battle of Baniyas in which Egypt was
defeated, it came under the control of the Seleucids. Antiochus IV Epiphanes,
son of Antiochus III and brother of Seleucus IV (cf. 2 Mac 4:7), had been sent
to Rome by his father as a hostage (in accordance with the treaty of Apamea,
188 BC). The one hundred and thirty-seventh year, counting from 312 BC when
the Seleucid dynasty was founded, was 175 BC.

1:11-15. Conforming to Greek ways was equivalent in that situation to turning
one’s back on the Lord and on the Covenant. Gymnasia were presided over by
Greek gods, and “becoming like the Gentiles” involved disguising the signs of
circumcision when taking part undressed in gymnasium sports. Belonging to
the people of God entailed a moral lifestyle different from that of the Gentiles,
just as being a member of the Church, the new people of God, requires a per-
son to avoid practices and attitudes contrary to the natural law and Christian

Apropos of this, St Paul taught the first Christians: “We beseech and exhort
you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to
please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what
instructions we gave you through theLord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your
sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; that each of you know how to

control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like hea-
then who do not know God” (1 Thess 4:1-5). “Reject the deception of those who
appease themselves with the pathetic cry of ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ Their cry often
masks a tragic enslavement because choices that prefer error do not liberate.
Christ alone sets us free, for he alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life” (St. J.
Escriva, “Friends of God”, 26).

1:41-53. Up to this point the Jews have been governed by their own laws, which
were both religious and civil. In order to unify his empire politically, Antiochus
wants to impose a single form of religious practice. Those Jews who had a liking
for things Greek had no difficulty in accepting the king’s laws: they were already
conforming to them, and now they became formal apostates of Judaism. Other
Jews, maybe majority, conformed out of fear. But there were others still, whom
the sacred writer sees as the true Israel (v. 53), who were forced to go
underground to stay loyal to their religion.

1:54-64. The author recalls with great sadness the exact day when an altar, or
perhaps a statue, dedicated to Zeus Olympus was erected in the temple of Je-
rusalem—8 December 167 BC. The revulsion God-fearing Jews felt towards that
object can be seen from the name used to describe it—”a desolating sacrifice”
(”abominatio desolationis”, the abomination of desolation: cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31;
12:11). ln Hebrew the words used sound like the name of the “Baal of the hea-
vens”, the Canaanite idol which Israelites in ancient times found so attractive
and against which the prophets strove (cf. 1 Kings 18:20-40). But the phrase
also, literally, means something abominable which leads to total perdition. It
is, in the last analysis, a symbol of idolatrous worship which seeks to impose
itself by force on worship of the true God. Our Lord Jesus Christ will use the
very same expression, “desolating sacrifice”, “abomination of desolation”, to
announce the tribulation which will overwhelm Jerusalem (as it indeed did when
the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD) and which will be a sign of the tribulations
that will happen at the end of time (cf. Mt 24:15-25 and par.).

The events narrated briefly here and the violence done to the Jews, as also ex-
emplary acts of fideIity,are reported in more detail in 2 Maccabees 6:1-11, 18,
31; 7:1-42. It was a very testing time for Israel, a time of purging and purification.
When God allows persecution to happen, he does so to elicit fidelity: this is
true for Israel and later for the Church.

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

13 posted on 11/15/2009 10:12:15 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies ]

To: All

From: Luke 18:35-43

The Cure of the Blind Man of Jericho

[35] As He (Jesus) drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside
begging; [36] and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. [37]
They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” [38] And he cried, “Jesus, Son
of David, have mercy on me!” [39] And those who were in front rebuked him, tel-
ling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on
me!” [40] And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to Him; and
when he came near, He asked him, [41] “What do you want Me to do for you?”
He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” [42] And Jesus said to him, “Receive
your sight; your faith has made you well.” [43] And immediately he received his
sight and followed Him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it,
gave praise to God.


35-43. The blind man of Jericho is quick to use the opportunity presented by
Christ’s presence. We should not neglect the Lord’s graces, for we do not know
whether He will offer us them again. St. Augustine described very succinctly the
urgency with which we should respond to God’s gift, to His passing us on the
road: “’Timeo Jesum praetereuntem et non redeuntem’: I fear Jesus may pass
by and not come back.” For, at least on some occasion, in some way, Jesus
passes close to everyone.

The blind man of Jericho acclaims Jesus as the Messiah—he gives Him the
messianic title of Son of David—and asks Him to meet his need, to make him
see. His is an active faith; he shouts out, he persists, despite the people get-
ting in his way. And he manages to get Jesus to hear him and call him. God
wanted this episode to be recorded in the Gospel, to teach us how we should
believe and how we should pray — with conviction, with urgency, with constancy,
in spite of the obstacles, with simplicity, until we manage to get Jesus to listen
to us.

“Lord, let me receive my sight”: this simple ejaculatory prayer should be often
on our lips, flowing from the depths of our heart. It is a very good prayer to use
in moments of doubt and vacillation, when we cannot understand the reason be-
hind God’s plans, when the horizon of our commitment becomes clouded. It is
even a good prayer for people who are sincerely trying to find God but who do
not yet have the great gift of faith.

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

14 posted on 11/15/2009 10:16:44 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies ]

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson